Today marks International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) when we celebrate the work of women engineers across the world.  What better time to acknowledge and reflect upon their achievements than after a year of lockdowns and change across the world?

At WomenTechConnect, we strive to help make the Internet engineering space one that’s more comfortable with gender diversity. Over the years, Workonline and LINX have partnered to share experiences and perspectives from across the globe.

Earlier this year, we hosted an event entitled Carer or Career with AfPIF as part of their Virtual Peering Series for Africa.  Keynoted by Josephine Nyiranzeyimana, Government Chief Information Officer at the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), the event title attracted an interesting response.  It seemed to pigeonhole our audience into an either-or position.  And the discussion was that you can be both: it’s in how we balance and juggle those roles that determines our success.  What the discussion highlighted was how the lines have blurred between roles, and how the changing work environment is enabling dual roles.

The 2020 remote shift

Working from home (WFH) played a major role in 2020, and we predict will continue to be a large part of the new hybrid workplace.  Psychology Today recently referred to it as the “Covidian Experiment” as the pandemic forced us to adapt to a new mode of working almost overnight. This new era is full of opportunity – every waking moment is a chance to be connected and to do work.  Productivity is no longer measured by going to the office.  Social interactions, mentoring and the ‘softer’ side of work culture have all been virtualized.  It’s so easy now to be part of a team. We are more connected now than ever before.  We may be alone doing it behind our screens but we’re there – no more limits, ceilings, restrictions, right?

Maybe.  The biggest challenge this new-found freedom has highlighted is the intrusiveness of work. Without boundaries between office and living space, and in a world where we have every possible method of communicating open to us, it is extremely difficult to switch off.  There’s a Hotel California feel about this new era…you can check in any time you like, but you can never leave.

This was one of the critical reflections voiced by WomenTechConnect community members in our last forum, which attracted delegates from across Africa, Europe and the UK.  For most people, working from home is a tough balance between responsibilities and work.  They find it difficult to find the balance to be productive, especially with home responsibilities.

Time is the answer

The pandemic has forced many managers to change. Micromanagers have been forced to trust their teams to be productive.  Emotional intelligence has gained importance as a key management skill to successfully coordinate teams. Today’s leaders need to know their teams better than ever before and understand their constraints and challenges of working from home.  Knowledge, trust and communication enable agility, foster team building, improve productivity and inspire commitment.

Empathy and compassion have risen to a new level of leadership competence.  What advice would you give to those women in the engineering workplace right now?  Do you think there are opportunities to be grabbed? And what do you need to do to guard against the dangers of overwork and burnout posed by the work from home scenario?

Share your views below, or feel free to listen to the podcast of our last event here.