Technology is one of the most developed areas nowadays. However, still a small percentage of women consider technology and engineering for future employment. In this interview, our WTP Alumni Dr. Elena Mammi, Electrical Engineer and Researcher at Fondazione Ugo Bordoni, tells us more about her background and makes a case why the tech industry needs more woman and what should be done to achieve it.
You received a Masters degree in Electronic Engineering at the University of Roma Tre, where you later continued your PhD studies. Where did your interest in technology come from, and what led you down that academic path?
My interest in technology comes from my interest in scientific subjects. The curiosity for new technologies is a direct consequence.
I inherited the passion for scientific subjects from my father, who was an exceptional professor in Mathematics. He was able to make me appreciate Mathematics through play.
Then I did the research thesis in Finland and I realised that I wanted to continue on that path. The PHD program required me to develop new ideas using methods of study acquired during the degree Therefore I understood that I was interested in imagining new scenarios, experimenting and continuing to study.
What do you enjoy most about your current job as a Researcher?
The possibility to do research is a privilege, but at the same time it is a very complex job. A researcher has the opportunity to work on stuff that not exist yet. Every researcher can choose between basic research and applied research, but in both of case the researcher has to bring out new ideas, new algorithms and new solutions. This is the part of my job that I love more.
“The part of my job that I love more is to bring out new ideas, new algorithms and new solutions.”
You have been working in the field for over 7 years. How has Internet access changed and evolved in that time?
Internet continuously evolves. The network that provides Internet develops and changes the way in which the users enjoy access to the Internet. We moved from simple chat to social networks, from the use of browsers to the use of applications, and from the use of Internet at home to the use of Internet everywhere.
In these years, the use of Internet has become more simple and engaging. It has become integral part of our lives. Through the use of mobile devices, we are always connected. Ten years ago in Italy, there was a boom of the subscriptions on Facebook. This type of social network changed the communication and the participation at community.
Everyone wants to be always connected and wants to have an always adequate Quality of Experience; for this reason those who works on network have more and more work to do. Then with the 5G network, the network of networks, access to the Internet will change again, the quality of services will improve, new services will arise and our lives will change another time.
Why does Tech Industry need more women and how could the industry be more inclusive for them?
Women use technology as much as men, so they are excellent users. Technology industry is driven by the market, so it is motivated to create technology instruments for female users.
However the aspect in which we should not fall behind is the design and creation of technology by women who bring a different point of view and this would lead to new ideas and therefore potentially to expanding the market. Then in my opinion, the technology industry should be hunting for women who work in the design and in management roles.
“We need to start bringing girls closer to the science in the family and at school, and the change at Tech Industry level will come as consequence.”
However, there are still few women with a science degree and even fewer women who have the chance to make a career in a world of men. Until there is a reverse trend, the technology industry will continue to have a male imprinting and continue to attract few women.
We need to start bringing girls closer to the science in the family and at school, and the change at Tech Industry level will come as a consequence. Certainly, politics should support mothers to reintegrate into work, which is a complicate step in the technology industry.
What are the factors influencing girls career choices in STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and what do you think could be done differently? Who was your role model when you were a child and what were your favourite toys you played with?
I believe that the hinders in itself comes from families. It is essential for children to approach the numbers through games. If the mathematics subject is not approached in the right way, it will become very difficult. When I was a child, I played with the “Lego”, and with the mathematical riddles.
Recently, I read about a study that show that playing with constructions helps children in the learning of scientific subjects when they grow up. As a child, I wanted to became a scientific and even now I like to play at the “little chemist” with my nephews.
The family should propose to girls not only dolls, pots and pans, but also scientific based games; then the girls will choose naturally what is better for them.
Of course I also had fantastic teachers in physics and mathematics, who have continued the work started by my family. School is very important, we have to believe and invest in the education system.
As an active Alumni of our Women Talent Pool programme, you have recently participated in WIL’s local event in Rome. What is your take on what it takes to be a good leader in your industry and how does the participation in women’s network help you with that?
In my field, there are a lot of well skilled engineers. Then it is not enough to be well skilled to be a good leader, it is also necessary that others see you as a competent person with a lot of charisma, self-control, and with a long-term vision.
“I really enjoyed the programme because it has given to me the instruments to work on myself and on my career.”
Sometimes to have a label is enough to be a boss, but to be a leader you need to be recognised as such by others. In a male world, it is not natural to see a woman as a leader, because the leaders are historically men. So the characteristics of a leader are usually the characteristics of a man.
A women’s network allows both to meet women who are leaders in their field and also to compare themselves with other women who try to become good leaders. This comparison helps to improve.
In my opinion, a woman does not become a leader by copying male leaders, but using qualities of her female vision. For these reasons, I really enjoyed the Talent programme because it has given to me the instruments to work on myself and on my career.