Celebrating The Women Shaping Our World

23 JUN 2020

by Joanne Hannaford

Happy International Women in Engineering Day. It has certainly been an eventful year - one that has tested our resilience and required us all to adapt quickly. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on everything our community has accomplished over the past 12 months.

One notable achievement is that there are now more than one million women working in core STEM industries in the UK, recently recognised by WISE in their #1ofTheMillion campaign. This is the result of tireless efforts by individuals and organisations across the country to realise a more equitable STEM workforce, and directly ties into the theme of this year's celebration: women who shape the world. The ever-increasing importance of technology is demonstrated in recent deployments to map active cases of Coronavirus, deliver healthcare in rural communities and teach lessons to school children during lockdown.

It is exhilarating to think about the impact that more women entering STEM professions is having; no doubt it will shape our world for the better. However, empowering women to build innovative products will only take us so far; we also need to ensure that women are commercially equipped to enable their products' long-term viability in the market. Goldman Sachs is committed to addressing both.

We are a long-standing supporter of Code First: Girls and their mission to equip women with the skills required to access careers in coding. In light of the pandemic, this social enterprise pivoted rapidly to ensure they remain on course to achieve their aim of teaching 20,000 women to code by the end of this year. Not only did they transition to delivering courses remotely in a matter of weeks, but they also held a virtual hackathon, Hack From Home, which saw more than 50 women convene virtually to create prototypes of products that would bring relief to those suffering as a result of the pandemic. With the event being open to women of all technical abilities, this hackathon was particularly powerful; women who might have only recently completed a coding course, or perhaps not participated in a hackathon before, were able to collaborate alongside experienced professionals in a friendly and supportive environment. We were thrilled that Christine Smyth, co-chair of the EMEA Women in Engineering Network, was invited to sit on the judging panel.

For an entrepreneur looking to get their idea off the ground however, the most challenging part is not the conception, but rather the process of developing it into a viable product. We therefore engaged engineers from Goldman Sachs Accelerate, an internal platform that empowers our people to build new businesses with the firm’s capital and resources, to run bespoke workshops with the top five winning teams, providing coaching on how to pitch their products effectively, as well as develop sound business plans. Our engineers were thoroughly impressed by the professionalism of the teams, their astute questions, and the customer focus evident in their strategy. Whilst these were one-off sessions, we are exploring how we can continue to mentor these groups.

This has been an extremely rewarding process for everyone involved. We must all strive to continue attracting women into STEM and encourage each and every one of them to shape our world in their own unique way.

Joanne Hannaford is a Managing Director and Head of Engineering in EMEA for Goldman Sachs.  This article originally was published on LinkedIn.