IWD: Attracting more women to the workforce

By Jonathan Nally
Thursday, 07 March, 2019

IWD: Attracting more women to the workforce

Tech company RFI is serious about widening its talent pool by ensuring diversity within its workforce.

To celebrate and acknowledge International Women’s Day, we’re repeating our story from last year about Sydney-based tech company RFI Technology Solutions, which is proactively diversifying its workforce to become an even better business.

It’s no secret that Australia’s mission-critical communications sector is facing a shortage of skilled staff, with a rapidly ageing workforce and an impending retirement cliff. One way to tackle the problem is to be more proactive in attracting more women into the field. Many companies and organisations have seen the merit in this idea, and none more so than RFI Technology Solutions, which operates in both the wireless communications and energy fields. We asked several female RFI employees to share their insights into working in the world of technology.

Wei Mu, who hails from China, is an antenna design engineer with a four-year background in designing internal antennas for mobile phones. Currently she’s working on Yagi arrays for RFI. “I design our new antennas for production and also I develop antennas that are already in the production line; so if they’ve got some issues, as an engineer I will go to production and help them to fix the problem,” she said.

Can the industry do more to attract female engineers? “Yes, I think so,” she said. “I think a lot of women, they will be very careful when doing the job and with great organisation and better attention to detail, so I think if we can have more ladies in this industry it would be a big improvement.”

Ava Shiri is from Iran and already had nine years of experience in telecommunications before joining RFI, where she is responsible for cable and connector product management. What does she think could attract more women into the industry? “I don’t like the fashion or trend that we should increase the number of females in the industry. I think that companies like RFI should attract talented people, the best people for the job, whether they are female or male.”

Monique Merino studied bio-medical science, but after finishing her honours year found that she “absolutely hated it, [and] decided I never wanted to work in the industry at all! I ended up going through a graduate program where they pair your skills with a company”, which in her case was RFI.

Now part of the internal sales team, Merino says she finds the industry interesting. “What I’m really enjoying is the technical side of telecoms, because it’s something I’d known a little bit about previously… but diving in deeper has been really, really interesting.”

Headshot images of Wei Mu, Jessica Forder, Monique Merino and Ava Shiri

Clockwise from top left: Wei Mu, Jessica Forder, Monique Merino and Ava Shiri.

Merino agrees that communications engineering traditionally “hasn’t been an industry that women have gone into, [but] I think that’s very much changing though as we get more diversity in a lot of different spaces for women”.

Has she ever felt like that people think a woman shouldn’t be in her role? “I do occasionally get surprise that I can help someone [over the phone]… but not hostility or the feeling that I shouldn’t be there.”

Jessica Forder came into RFI when the company acquired Maxon. Although her role is mainly that of product manager, she wears a number of different hats across operations, product management and R&D.

She thinks the industry has been predominately male “because that’s who the courses were aimed towards. The admin roles were aimed towards women. But… more women are getting involved in technology, which is great; it just sprouts new ideas, new directions. I think change is good when it comes to technology. We can’t have growth without change.”

But like Shiri, Forder doesn’t think that a company should hire a woman over a man just to hire a woman. “It should be equal; it shouldn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, you should be able to stand on your merits,” she said.

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