Wendy Torell at Schneider Electric talks digital and STEM

Wendy Torell at Schneider Electric talks digital and STEM

 August 15, 2018

Wendy Torell is a Senior Research Analyst at Schneider Electric’s Data Center Science Center. Wendy researches best practices in data center design and operation, publishes white papers and articles, and develops TradeOff Tools to help the company's clients optimize the availability, efficiency, and cost of their data center environments. Here she shares her views on how the digital economy is shifting the workforce playing field for women.

Gender gap in technical and engineering fields

"I’m used to being out-numbered. I grew up in a household with 3 brothers," states Wendy. "I attended engineering classes in college with less than a handful of women… I have participated in technical workshops where I was the sole female in attendance… and I have attended many a data center conference with a single-digit number of females in the room.  It’s no secret that there is a big gender gap in tech/engineering fields, and especially in the data center industry."

On International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the achievements of women around the globe — Wendy penned an article about the importance of diversity in the industry and how the digital economy may help shift the playing field. She came across some interesting statistics. 

  • Just 12.9 percent of all US engineers are presently women and a mere eight percent in the UK.
  • The number of female engineers and computer scientists graduating each year is increasing, but as a percent of those degrees awarded, it has remained relatively constant at 20% for the past decade, so we’re not seeing an increase in their representation in the workplace
  • In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%

"I’m focused on women in these examples but this conversation applies to any segment of the population – race, sex, nationality, ethnic background, etc – that is not well represented," comments Wendy. 

The value of a balanced workforce

The good news is there have been numerous research studies demonstrating the value of a more balanced workforce and how it leads to better products and better results. Different experiences, viewpoints, knowledge, and perspective are key ingredients for creativity, conflict, and critical analysis – all crucial to innovation in science and technology fields. 

This understanding has led to extensive efforts to balance the workforce – efforts by governments around the world, efforts by learning institutions, and efforts by corporations. "I have seen the initiatives first hand in my children’s schools, and at Schneider Electric," says Wendy.  "One recent school example: Just last week I got an email detailing an opportunity for girls in 6th-9th grade to attend the local university (URI) SWE’s collegiate chapter meetings to learn about engineering, to have the chance to discuss STEM careers with URI women in engineering, and to participate in STEM activities with them."

The impact of the digital economy on jobs and skills

The digital economy is changing the ways we connect with each other, with information, and with the world (think IoT!). Technologies like machine learning, big data analytics, automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, and robotics are allowing us to solve more and more complex problems.  Mobile & cloud technology is at the center of it.  More and more, we’re seeing the spread of internet-based service models.

"So the question is, what impact do these technologies have on the types of jobs and skills needed and the way we work.  Certainly, there will be a continued growth in STEM field jobs, especially in fields like data science and cybersecurity.  I read an interesting article about the future of work that described how big data, real-time information, automation, etc. can have a big impact on the way we work; think about commutes being shorter with real-time traffic info, or home-work flexibility increasing because of enabling technologies and constant connection.  A common response to the low numbers of women in tech fields is the lack of workplace flexibility; so if these barriers are taken away, perhaps we’ll see an increase in women in these roles," says Wendy.

"It will be exciting to see what the future holds; many of our children will hold roles that don’t yet exist today.  With the importance of diversity well understood, and initiatives in place to achieve it, I think we’re headed in the right direction.

For those young girls out there that love science, math, and technology, I encourage you to learn more about the STEM fields, be confident in what you’re capable of, and keep an open mind about who you want to become! Don’t let stereotypes steer your future."

Join the talent pool at Schneider Electric

Schneider Electric is dedicated to providing equal opportunities to everyone everywhere and to ensuring all employees feel uniquely valued and safe to contribute their best. Learn more about Diversity & Inclusion at Schneider Electric and search for new and exciting career opportunities around the world. 


Find out more

Stay connected by subscribing to our monthly newsletter and following us on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

Share this page:

Join our women's careers community