March 4th is the UNESCO World Engineering Day. This annual celebration highlights the achievements of engineers and engineering around the globe. While the world is becoming more equal in terms of gender equality in the workplace, engineering it’s still very one-sided in terms of representation.
Studies show that currently only 13 percent of engineers are women. Thankfully, many companies are working to change that, including the ARaymond Network, which manufactures assembly and fastening systems worldwide and has more than 7,000 employees.
Mareike Pollichino is an engineer who works for ARaymond in Germany as a parts designer and development engineer for metal fasteners used in the automotive industry. She has been with the company for more than 12 years.
Pollichino says her decision to pursuing this automotive engineering as a career was a delayed decision, because initially she viewed working in the automotive field as a male profession.
“I was always curious about how things worked and was interested in the subject. But I decided very late that I wanted a technical profession in automotive. Prior to that, I had thought of other roles like media design and graphic design being for women, and automotive for men,” Pollichino said. “Thankfully my family motivated me to pursue this, including my brother who is an engineer. Through encouragement from my internship in ARaymond, I was positively surprised how open the company was to me as a young woman. After my internship, I wanted to continue my career in this field.”
Pollichino studied at professional trade school to be a Technical Draftsperson with a focus on Machine and Plant Engineering, before joining ARaymond full-time. Twelve years later, her role now focuses on developing fastening solutions for automobiles, constructing tools for prototypes, and also creating product animations.
“My animations show how the fasteners function in a virtual way. I’m the only one doing this job in my team and I learned it at the beginning by doing, without training. It was my own initiative to start, which was followed by a training on how to better use the applications.” she said. “The animations look very good to show the customer how the part functions. ”
The department Pollichino works with at ARaymond, includes 24 men and 2 women, an indication of the current level of representation in the automotive engineering field. She is also the youngest member of her team.
She has advice for young women entering the field today to try to improve representation.
“I would tell these young women that they can be safe, confident, and have courage to learn from their mistakes. Ask a lot of questions, especially at the entry level. You can read books and do lectures, but get knowledge from human sources. Don’t focus on the theory only but also in the practical world.”
She also looked back at her own early career, and gave advice to her younger self when starting out.
“I would advise myself to start with more courage, let my ideas flow. It’s important that the ideas of a woman be heard as much as the voices of male colleagues. Have more self-confidence and don’t be shy. I should have fought more for what I saying at the beginning. And I have found my voice more over the years.”
Regarding her successes at ARaymond, Pollichino said there was not one that stands out.
“As an engineer, I’m proud of every project in which I have. Every moment of success makes you grow up. When you develop something special, a special tool or project design,” she said. “My skills are in prototype tooling. You test it before manufacturing begins. And in this step you often have big challenges. Setting up and getting the prototype tooling perfect before you can get the final product ready for mass production. You have the responsibility that it will work. Parts are in general very small and complicated, and the process can be very difficult. They need to be perfect, and despite the small size, they are of great value in the cars.”
In terms of growing interest in the profession among young girls, she supports traditions such as Girls Day, a day when German girls ages 9 to 16 are shown all sorts of professions up close, including technical and STEM professions. This is a program that ARaymond supports in Germany every year.
“We give girls a chance to spend a day watching the company. It shows girls early that not only traditional female professions are for them.”
Pollichino said she doesn’t see barriers at her company to women joining the engineering field and even leadership roles.
“I’m encouraged for the future by the increased level of interest from women engineers since I’ve started here, and there is not a barrier at ARaymond to their success. The company is very open to have women in these roles, and having a more diverse team is a positive as women often bring a unique perspective or approach to the job, as well as strong flexibility and ability to multi-task.”