Kathy Herring Hayashi, chair of the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC), has been involved in semiconductor software her entire career and currently works at Qualcomm Inc., analyzing and optimizing semiconductor workflows in large-scale compute environments. From start-ups to large companies, she has held a variety of positions including leadership roles in technical development, applications engineering and information technology. In this interview, Kathy provides some details on the upcoming WIE ILC, to be held 23-24 May 2019 in Austin, Texas.
What are some of your personal experiences and thoughts as a woman in engineering?
Kathy Herring Hayashi: In college, granted, many years ago for me, there were only two women in my classes of over 100. In the meetings that I attended yesterday, I was the only technical woman in the rooms. Some things in the industry have not changed, but there is certainly a growing momentum for change, opportunity and many amazing initiatives to support greater diversity of all kinds in technical fields.
What I often tell women engineers, or those women interested in pursuing a career in technical fields, is that it is a great time to be in tech. Period. Just look around at the emerging technologies that are now becoming norms and the velocity of engineering accomplishments that are taking place. It’s our hope that through conferences like the IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC), that any women with a passion for technology continue in their respective careers and understand they are a much-needed component in advancing industries through technology. In fact, sustaining women in technology is one of the major goals of the WIE ILC.
You talk about retaining women engineers. What are the concerns and how are they being addressed?
In a recent survey conducted by IEEE, more than 4500 women responded to a Survey on Women’s Experiences in Tech. The results of that survey can be found online here and is well worth a read on the topic. The detailed findings outline some of the discouraging experiences and perceptions within the industry. For some, they are assigned lower-level tasks and comments were addressed to other males in the room, when the questions should have been addressed to her. Further, the second page of the survey results lists a summary of concrete suggestions from the respondents on how the issues that women face might be addressed. These include raising awareness of the status quo of women in the workplace and highlighting top performers to raise their visibility within their organization.
The IEEE WIE ILC conference is dedicated to supporting and sustaining middle- to senior-career women that we urgently want to retain in the field. As mentioned, statistical studies continue to show that women do have challenges in the engineering field, with a very high number of mid- to senior-career technical women leaving their field. That said, there are also studies that show what keeps women in technology. Some of this data points to the importance of having professional organizations like IEEE, which work for them to foster networking opportunities.
What’s more, holding conferences like IEEE WIE ILC 2019 provides both technical and professional classes, training, and workshops that can help a woman in engineering to thrive in this field. Our goal is to inspire them get them engaged, and work to empower them in ways that can promote them in their careers. In order to do that, we have technical sessions that will help them stay abreast of the latest and greatest technologies, so that they converse at a level that demonstrates their understanding of the emerging technologies related to their field.
What else does WIE ILC focus on related to career advancement for women in engineering or technology?
Another thing that we focus on is providing professional development skills. If you’re at the mid to senior career level, you’ve likely been working in your field for 10- to 20-years. Women engineers, in particular, may be looking to advance to the next step in their careers, and part of that involves obtaining the executive training needed for career advancement. Of course, the type of women in technology is diverse, so we also explore and apply best practices from what’s been learned by women in other verticals, such as women in government, women in labs or women in business. And when we talk about success, we start with the premise that it is unique and as individual as each person that comes to the conference, with an understanding that it is also based on the goals that you set and reach for yourself.
You talked about the importance of emerging technologies. How are they addressed at WIE ILC?
Kathy Herring Hayashi: So, in the past I have taken some amazing in-depth classes at WIE-ILC on security and they talked about the importance of security and discussed some of the methodologies that are used within cybersecurity. That’s an example that can be used in almost any vertical, where you can start talking about, “Oh, but did we consider the security on that?” That is a transferable skill that you can learn and use at these conferences. In the past, it’s been classes on security or classes on IoT. Several years ago, when IoT was at its onset, many people didn’t quite know the definitions at that point. The conference provided a forum to ask the questions to better understand IoT and its overall concepts. Last year we had block chain, an expanding technology that is becoming more prevalent in a lot of different technology areas. This year we’ll continue this tradition and cover many new technologies, including the digital transformation to the cloud and machine learning. The upside for attendees is that these technology sessions really help in the development of transferable skills within their specific areas of interest.
You had mentioned that WIE ILC is focused on mid to senior level professionals. What about Young Professionals? Do you see them participating in the conference?
Kathy Herring Hayashi: Of course, we always welcome people of all ages. Young professionals or new grads are definitely encouraged to explore the many WIE ILC sessions where they can extend their knowledge and perhaps give greater thought to their career objectives. It’s really never too early to start expanding your skills base and one of the key goals of WIE is to engage a new generation of women engineers and provide the encouragement, mentoring and training they will help them achieve success in their education and careers.
How important are the sponsoring partners for WIE ILC?
Kathy Herring Hayashi: Going on six years, the IEEE WIE ILC is able to provide their impactful conference due to their generous support of their sponsors and partners. For 2019, we are actively looking for companies to become partners with IEEE WIE ILC and to sponsor some of our activities.
It’s very important for the conference to have these partners, and partners benefit by extending their brand recognition to a key group of conference attendees along with excellent strategic, one-on-one recruitment opportunities. On the exhibit floor, partners can meet directly with the attendees, demonstrating their support for diversity, while at the same time highlighting support of their own mid to senior career women working in their company.
This type of partnering with WIE ILE can, in fact, help retain and train leaders who contribute to innovations, best practices and, ultimately, revenue growth. I would encourage technology firms interested in supporting the culture of women in technology to visit the WIE ILC partnership page or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details.