Women in Tech

Digital safety and security at the WES annual conference

16th May 2023
Sheryl Miles

On the 27―28 April 2023, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) held its annual conference at Millennium Point in Birmingham, and Electronic Specifier’s Sheryl Miles was fortunate enough to attend.

The theme of the two-day conference focused on digital safety and security, and it came with an agenda packed full of inspirational talks, discussions, workshops, and demonstrations from women across all facets of engineering.

Planetary security

At the conference, the term safety and security had a dual interpretation, relating to both cyber security and the safety and security of the planet overall – focusing on how conscious engineering can help to achieve a better world for everyone.

To address this theme, WES CEO, Elizabeth Donnelly MSc FRSA MRAeS MINCOSE, commenced day one with a welcome introduction before presenting Alison Baptiste CBE, Director of Public and Security Services, Infrastructure and Projects Authority, who gave a rousing talk on the importance of planetary safety and security, and the role engineers play in achieving net zero.

The universal challenge of reaching net zero is a huge endeavour that relies on participation from each and every person. This is something which Paula McMahon, Civil Engineer at Sir Robert McAlpine, advocates strongly by engaging with school children about what everyone can do to help reverse the effects of global warming.

Cyber safety and security

To discuss the element of cybersecurity, Dr Manisha Morais, Director of Business Development & Professional Development at Kuzuko Group and Fábio Morais, Co-Founder & Director of Technology and Operations at Kuzuko Group, gave a compelling interpretation of how cybercriminals operate, and the speed of which hackers can infiltrate private information and hold a person or an organisation to ransom.

Digital safety and security is a critical aspect of modern society, and as we become more reliant on technology in our everyday lives, the risk of cybercrime increases. According to Statista, in the third quarter of 2022 there were approximately 15 million breaches globally, which is a 37% increase on the year before.

However, it is evident that there is a shortage of diverse representation in engineering overall – with women making up only 16.5% of all engineers, according to a 2022 EngineeringUK report.

Women in engineering

Also on the agenda was discussions around the lack of diversity, equality, and inclusion for women within the engineering sector.

Speak Out Revolution’s #DesignHerIn campaign gave a confronting account of the lack of basic etiquette shown to females in the workplace.

Presenting a list of just ten of the barriers that women in engineering face on a daily basis, speakers Frances Holmes, Marie Hemingway, Vira Jogia, and Elina Militello spoke on, and engaged with, audience members on what provisions are lacking for women in STEM, what more is needed to improve conditions in the workplace, and who is championing forward-thinking in their offering of diversity and inclusivity.

It is this audience participation that was a key determiner for the entire WES conference. Each of the speakers were as engaged and interested as the audience. They wanted to hear what others in the industry thought and they wanted to connect, encourage, and find out how safety and security, as well as inclusivity and diversity, can be improved.

The entire two days were warm and welcoming, and no-one was left to stand alone.

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