Women in Tech

Women in Electronics: a powerhouse of talent gathered in Germany

1st February 2024
Paige West

Electronic Specifier’s Paige West recently visited Munich to attend the Women in Electronics (WE) Germany Chapter event.

Women in Electronics (WE) was formed by a group of 20 women in the electronics industry during its inaugural conference in the fall of 2017. WE was the brainchild of Jackie Mattox, who soon brought in Monica Highfill (then with KEMET Electronics) and Amy Keller, Abracon, (then Arrow Electronics) to build the organisation with the premise of women working collaboratively to find inspiration, strength, and empowerment through a sense of community.

The organisation has four goals:

  1. Empower women through virtual event discussion groups
  2. Develop women with the Life Balance Series and Professional and Personal Leadership Development Programme
  3. Advocate for ourselves and others through the professional career coaching in the Mentorship Programme
  4. Celebrate the accomplishments and advancement of women

And I certainly saw some empowerment and celebration in Munich. Before I’d even arrived, the event had already outgrown its original venue. Expectations were around the 70 people mark, but well over 100 had registered which meant a bigger venue needed to be found. Quite a nice problem to have! It was also nice to see some men in attendance, only six or seven mind, but most of the conversations I had stemmed around the importance of male colleagues and friends showing support and solidarity for women in this industry.

“I’m glad to be here with so many lovely people and especially women coming together in one place at one time, which is pretty rare for women in our industry … now I think the men in the room have an idea of what it feels like!” said Jackie Mattox, Founder, President, & CEO, Women in Electronics, followed by a massive burst of applause.

In fact, WE is branding more and more as WE United. The reason for this? “It makes it easier to get men to the table,” notes Mattox. “We need their input. We need the male perspective and allyship.”

Here are some facts that caught my attention (data taken from the US):

59% of women are college graduates

18% of women attend industry executive conferences

8% of women are Fortune 500 CEOs

It turns out that women don’t have a problem getting into the workforce, the issue lies in climbing that career ladder. Women just aren’t getting promoted as quickly as men. But here’s another fun fact:

Companies whose top management is at least ½ female see returns on equity that are 19% higher than average

So, the higher a company’s gender composition, the better it performs.

“It is proven that the more diverse and inclusive organisations are, the more successful the top line and bottom line. There is terrific progress being made on many fronts, and WE in helping to lead the way,” said Phil Gallagher, CEO, Avnet.

Dr Shawn Andrews, who has been working with WE for a while, has taken a close look at what makes women such great leaders.

One of our strengths is transformational leadership, women are amazing at looking at the big picture. We also have great empathy and human skills. We are naturally calm, and that is essential. And, of course, that female intuition comes in handy!

However, the number one thing holding many female leaders back is our unwillingness to take risks. Men aren’t as worried about failure, whereas we tend to be more perfectionistic.

“But you can see that if you put [men and women] together … teams are going to have so many skill sets on the table,” said Mattox.

We all know that many organisations are facing a talent crisis, especially in the electronics industry, but it’s critical that these organisations realise that the talent is right under their nose, in house, waiting for that shot at leadership.

The evening finished with a panel discussion from leaders within the industry: Susanne Ertl, Vice President, Sales Distribution, Europe TDK, Marie-Pierre Ducharme, Vice President, EMEA Supplier Marketing & Business Development, Mouser Electronics, Marcel Hametner, General Manager - Communications, Infrastructure & Services EMEA, Microchip Technology, and Nina Beyer, Sales Operations Manager/EMEA Customer Operations, Texas Instruments.

Each of them spoke about their journey in leadership, some of the challenges they’ve faced along the way, and what advice they would offer women looking to climb that career ladder.

“I believe it’s all about sizing the opportunity, really taking the risk, opening the horizon and I always tell myself, don’t limit yourself, just look left and right and when you see something or you’re even a little bit scared and you’ve never done it before, just go for it and try it. There’s always something you can learn out of it,” said Nina Beyer, Texas Instruments.

“I had the big master plan … I always wanted a family, and I always wanted a career … and a lot of young ladies have in mind that you cannot do it – be a mum, be a good mum and work full time. Ladies, this is possible! Just do it! Don’t sacrifice one or the other, just do it,” said Marie-Pierre Ducharme, Mouser Electronics.

“Something that men have more of than women is perceived confidence. For me, this is really difficult and something that I would like to build. However, I also realise that it takes me a lot of energy to really get into that. So, when it comes to what I would recommend [to other women] – self-confidence. That’s what it’s all about,” said Susanne Ertl, TDK.

“I think one of the challenges we have is integrity and honesty. Now, everyone wants to progress in their career and we all want to get to where we’re aiming for but, I find that those that do it with integrity and honesty, even if it won’t get them there fast, that kind of community spirit is something we need to strive for,” said Marcel Hametner, Microchip Technology. 

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