Embrace the pink!

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Tanya Weaver addresses the debate on DEVELOP3D’s bright pink July/August front cover and ultimately concludes that female engineers should embrace the feisty hue

Our bright pink July/August front cover was always going to be controversial. Before it even went to the printers we had a debate in the office.

Some thought that, as the cover story was about female engineers, pink was too much of a cliché.

We tried orange and purple but neither had the same impact. The punk pink was certainly striking and I fought to keep it. As our art director put it, it’s meant to be postmodern and ironic.

Soon after it hit desks some of our readers took to social media to express their opinions. Over on Facebook a lady commented,

“Because it’s about women, it had to be pink? Oh dear” whilst on Twitter I had a long chat (well, as much as you can in 140 characters) with Sarah Driscoll, who said the students at the engineering college she heads up found the constant stereotyping irritating and not very inspirational.

On LinkedIn there were some positive reactions. Holly Papadopoulos, a design engineer at Sitec Group, said: “I think it’s great, striking and empowering. It is more feisty than girly.”

Whilst Haley Wells, a trainee design engineer at Weston Body Hardware, who was actually featured in the cover story, said: “I personally don’t have a problem with the pink as it’s not ‘girly’ and so what if it is seen that way? We’re different from men and always will be but that doesn’t mean we can’t be on a level plane.”

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When I was researching who to feature in the ‘Women in Engineering’ cover story I initially wanted to write about Limor Fried, whose hair pretty much colour matches that of the July / August front cover.

Fried, otherwise known as Ladyada, is a New York-based electrical engineer who, having graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), founded Adafruit Industries, an open-source electronics company, in 2005.

She is a trailblazing female engineer who has picked up a number of accolades along the way including Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in 2011 and Entrepreneur of 2012 by Entrepreneur magazine.

Unfortunately, she was too tied up at the time to do interviews. It’s not surprising really as her company recently moved into larger premises in lower Manhattan having shifted $10 million in DIY electronic hardware kits last year.

This is a feisty, inspiring lady who rocks her pink locks, much like we hoped our high impact cover would do.

Unfortunately it didn’t chime with all of our readers, which is a shame as the whole idea of the issue was to inspire. In saying this, ‘covergate’ (as it’s now referred to at DEVELOP3D towers) certainly brought up some healthy debate into stereotypes, when is pink not pink and what exactly is postmodernism.

One stereotype that does need to be challenged is that engineering is deemed manual and ‘dirty work’ and so more a man’s domain. However, often engineering entails no manual work at all and in fact involves a way of working and problem solving, which a female mindset is perfect for.

As Caroline Simcock, one of the engineers featured in our cover story, believes: “We should recognise that it’s a female mind that is really organised and logical,” she said. “We would be able to make some significant steps in the industry if we could get more females into engineering.”

Quite a bit of research has actually been done into mixed gender groups and how they relate to business and team success. In terms of the decision-making process, women seem to be predisposed to be more inquisitive and to see more possible solutions.

For instance, a 2010 study co-authored by reaserchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology into Collective Intelligence found that the number of women in a group is linked to that group’s effectiveness in solving difficult problems.

But, of course the real issue and the subject of my cover story in the first place, was to celebrate those female engineers who are working in the industry.

They only make up six per cent of the engineering professionals currently in the UK, but hopefully if WISE, WES, IED, iMeche and others can encourage young ladies to study engineering, the scales may soon start to tip.

In the meantime, like Limor Field, feel empowered and embrace the pink!


What’s in a colour? Quite a lot it seems, judging by the reaction to our recent cover
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