Why Women are Wired for Robotics

by Rose Ciprian, Magdalena Jaworowicz and Casey Schulz

The technology involved in robotics is complex and intricate, requiring the involvement of a variety of engineering disciplines to develop one unified product. Successful engineers are detail-oriented and analytical — experts in their respective engineering fields — but are also able to keep the big picture in mind. They have the ability to understand concepts from different perspectives, and to use creativity to solve real-world problems.

Robotics is a rapidly growing field and a recent report by the International Federation of Robotics estimates more than 2.5 million industrial robots will be in service by 2019.

Research shows that women are “wired” to thrive in this type of environment — they are capable of managing multi-thread thought processes, and bring creativity, innovation and a fresh perspective to the workplace. As such, women have the potential to excel in robotics, and drive innovation.

Women tend to be more empathetic than men, so they can see things from multiple perspectives. They are also less competitive than men, more collaborative with other scientists, and more flexible socially. These characteristics provide women with an advantage when working in an interdisciplinary field, as with the case of robotics.

Creating a diverse environment is one of the key determinants of any company’s innovation and success, and developing gender diversity is easier in culturally diverse companies. Even in companies predominantly comprised of engineering personnel, the number of engineering teams managed by women is growing. At Omron Adept Technologies, a Bay Area robotic company, the percentage of female engineering managers has reached more than 25 percent, with significant growth in the last two years. That company has recognized that the presence of women in the office is beneficial to the work environment, as women are able to build strong team relationships through empathy and trust, which improves collaboration and leads to successful projects and products.

Rosa Ciprian, the Electrical Engineering Manager at Omron Adept Technologies, leads a team composed of electrical, compliance, firmware and aerospace engineers, who work to improve current products as well as design next generation robots. She joined the company almost four years ago as only the third EE employee, but was quickly moved into a management role just a few months later. Since then, she has grown her team extensively.

Ciprian’s door office sign combines her “Mom at Tech” sticker proudly positioned next to her Ph.D. title and illustrates her multitasking skills. Her collaboration efforts and brainstorming sessions are becoming a cultural trend at her work environment. Although Ciprian comes from a research background, she recognizes the challenges that commercial companies face. Her team is never afraid of trying new technologies, using them in unconventional ways and working every day to improve products in a reliable way.

Walking through the office, it is easy to recognize Casey Schulz’s desk, because among numerous cables and technical documentation there are also numerous examples of her creative hobbies, including a 3-D printed mini-catapult and a laser etched custom LED sign. Schulz, a Senior Systems Engineer, is working on the latest generation mobile robot. During the early development phase, she collaborated with other teams to research and test new technologies. Her day to day work ranges from writing software to wiring, soldering, training people or developing specifications and requirements with project managers and marketing groups. Her ability to provide a fresh, creative perspective while managing a variety of tasks is key to developing a successful product.

Anna Segal, a Quality Engineer, starts her day after dropping her daughter to school and is revolutionizing the Quality team. She introduced new processes to keep track of issues and drive them to closure, and has a wide breadth of knowledge in many technical fields. Her ability to draw from this technical knowledge as well as express empathy towards other individuals’ views allows her to successfully moderate a room full of engineers and customers with differing wants and opinions.

Now is a good time to be a woman in robotics because companies are recognizing that women are making major contributions to product development and product improvements, and therefore to the bottom line. Robotics is “the next big thing” and women are helping to lead this trend. Bringing women’s knowledge and points of view to the table is an important part of the contribution to the success of the company, and to the future of robotics.

This is a guest post for Inverse by the authors listed below.

Rosa Ciprian, Ph.D. is an electrical engineering manager at Omron Adept Technologies, the Robotics Division of Omron Corporation, where she leads the electrical engineering team.

Magdalena Jaworowicz is Senior Communication Coordinator at Omron Adept Technologies and has over 10 years of experience planning and executing communications for international engineering firms.

Casey Schulz is a Systems Engineer at Omron Adept Technologies. She currently leads the engineering and design verification testing for a new mobile robot.

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