Spotlight on Women in Mechanical Integrity: Julia Guimiot

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Posted on August 04

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Stay Curious

Julia Guimiot is something of a renaissance woman: she has bachelors in both history and computer science, which we didn’t think was legal. She currently works for HUVRdata as a software developer, focusing primarily on the backend and API. It may strain our journalistic ethics to point out we think she’s pretty awesome, but we don’t care, because she is.

Julia was kind enough to give us her unique perspective on women in mechanical integrity.

We can all agree there aren’t enough women in programming; this is not a provocative statement, considering only 28.7% of software engineers are women. Julia is practically a case study in why this disparity is a problem for the industry—she blows the whole “women are right brained/men are left brained” trope to smithereens. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in history, she went back to school and earned one in computer science—a net positive for the entire field.

Julia points out that when you leave women out of the planning and decision making, your solutions end up flawed. One example of this comes from something as simple as plowing snow.

In Sweden, they implemented a new plan to clear the streets after snowfall; unfortunately, it didn’t have a very big impact on hospitalizations. It was eventually discovered that this is because the plan was conceived with men driving cars in mind, despite the fact that it was largely women on foot who were being injured.  When they cleared the sidewalks first, the injuries were reduced massively; when you carry this over to all the areas of society largely implemented for men, by men, particularly in a field as complex as engineering, the flaws become even more apparent.

Julia points out that one thing (of many) that keeps the number of women in engineering artificially down is post-hiring stress. Often, women find themselves the lone representative of their gender on a team, or even in an entire company. This adds the stress of being asked to represent an entire group to the stress of doing a great job, and tends to burn women out quicker. This stress exists in places like higher learning, with women dropping out of programs more frequently than men, and even in the most supportive of companies - the best way to fight it? Hire a more diverse staff.

Like a good engineer, Julia is solutions-focused. She has several in mind to add diversity to the programming world. The first is a general solidarity with other women in male-dominated fields, but she seeks to move this beyond a gender issue and build communities of all marginalized groups, which can serve as both a source of strength and great networking. Julia hosted a Python coder group and participated in a Women who Code group in Austin. It was through these networking opportunities that Julia found her current gig: HUVR’s lead programmer reached out to the group and posted jobs on their board.

A simple step, Julia said, but one so many companies are not taking. There are many alumni programs, as well as formal and informal professional organizations that can help recruit women into engineering roles. Once they are there, companies should focus on retaining women and other marginalized groups. The benefit should be obvious: a wider variety of perspectives yields a wider variety of innovation and thus more opportunities for profit—it’s also conveniently the right thing to do.

As for women themselves, Julia’s advice is right to the point. “Stay curious.” The nature of an engineer's work, in hardware or software, is that as soon as one problem is solved, another is handed to you—if you’re lucky. Sometimes the problems pile up. Julia encourages women to make it a point to stay current and never stop learning. The more you know, the more valuable you are—and the less complacent you will be.

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