Bringing flexi back: Maintaining the mind-set of a problem solver – Fiona Tatton, Womanthology Editor

Rubiks cube
Fiona Tatton - Womanthology Founder and Editor

Fiona Tatton

Better together

Welcome to the Womanthology / National Women in Engineering Day mashup edition – our second in recent weeks following on from our hugely successful partnership with the dynamic, straight talking, no messing women of Soapbox Science. We had fun combining our contacts and ideas with our lovely friends in both science and engineering, and as with so many of the best things in life, we’re better together: Astaire and Rogers / fish and chips / Ant and Dec / gin and tonic / Posh and Becks. The list goes on…

I first reached out to Dawn Bonfield, now President of the Women’s Engineering Society, way back before I launched Womanthology in March last year. Dawn was one of the women who listened to the crazy woman on the phone with all the ideas about changing the things we give women to read, giving them something positive to make them feel good about themselves for a change and smashing the stereotypes about what ‘having it all’ might look like.

Stuff having it all

I still, to this day, have never met anybody who has it all. Who invented that notion of ‘having it all’ for us all to compare ourselves against and make ourselves feel bad when we don’t measure up to this unachievable ideal? I stay stuff having it all.

Anyway, I digress… Dawn was kind enough to listen to my ramblings and agree to take part in our very first edition. If it hadn’t been for Dawn and the other women who got behind Womanthology in the early days, there would be no magazine.

What I love about Dawn and the Women’s Engineering Society is that they are so collegiate in their approach. There’s no competition, no one upman(orwoman)ship. There’s just collaboration and progress going hand in hand. Last, but not least, even though she has so much to juggle she always comes back when she says she will and she takes on board feedback, accommodating my requirements. The ideal contributor..?!

Returnships: Back to your future

So the theme of National Women in Engineering Day (#NWED if you’re down with the kids on Twitter) is women returning to the workplace after a career break. Given the shortage of women in engineering roles it totally amazes me that so many companies are only just coming round to the idea that talent, in whatever form, is precious and just because a woman may have taken time out for maternity leave (or indeed any other reason) there is absolutely no reason to believe that her faculties or skills have been diminished in any way.

Show me a mother who comes back to work who hasn’t evolved the ability to juggle five things at once and manage her time precisely in order to fit everything in. If anything she’s developed a whole new, complementary skill set.

Talent stays talented

Who’d have thought it? Watching copious amounts of Peppa Pig, Dora the Explorer (those two unlikely early years feminist idols, adored by millions of tots) does not drain women of their engineering skills and knowledge after all. Glad we’ve cleared that up… Corporates, please take note. Women need to be able to maintain their professional standing at work, even if they want to work flexibly. Talent stays talented, despite changes to life circumstances or priorities.

We’ve got some great examples of companies who are investing in programmes to retain talent or acquire talent in the form of women who were lost by other, less forward-thinking organisations.

STEAMM powered

The other thing I can’t get enough of at the moment is how STEM (science / technology / engineering / maths) subjects are extending their reach. STEM has become STEMM (with the addition of medicine), and there’s now a move to add arts into the mix, meaning you get STEAM or ultimately, I suppose you will end up with STEAMM.

This thinking seems to have been led in America, but it is slowly spreading over here, with engineers requiring artistic abilities for creative thinking to solve existing problems. I’ve learnt that engineers are also often so far ahead of the game they’re solving problems we didn’t know we had yet!

Perhaps I need to retrain? I am constantly inventing new problems in life – although my recent experiences have forced me to get better at thinking on my feet as life seems to be throwing everything at me at the same time, but it’s actually bringing out the pragmatic problem solver in me.

Bit of the problem solving engineer mind-set in us all

So I hope you enjoy this edition. It was put together to help you realise that there’s a bit of the problem solving engineer mind-set in us all. You can do whatever you set your mind to if you want something enough, you work hard at it and examine all the options (however off the wall or unlikely they may seem at first). Remember, it’s never too late for a comeback.

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