As part of International Women’s Month, we’re speaking to our colleagues in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Women only accounted for 24% of the STEM workforce in 2019. This is only expected to rise to 29% by 2030.
To celebrate International Women’s Month and promote gender equality in the fields, we’re highlighting women who are “breaking the bias” and bringing innovation into their subjects.
About Kristina Kerwin
Kristina Kerwin, but you can call her Kris, is a Research Assistant for Circular Economy for the Data Centre Industry (CEDaCI). The CEDaCI programme, led by London South Bank University (LSBU), supports the data centre industry’s transition towards a more environmentally sustainable economic model. Kris’ connections to LSBU go back to 2013 as an alumnus of LSBU’s Engineering Product Design degree followed by the completion of a MSc. Through her work with CEDaCI, Kris has collaborated with SBI, sharing results and supporting in programme promotion.
Women in Sustainability & Engineering
Kris’ work in a sector that uses a good proportion of the EU’s Critical Raw Material list - some elements such as cobalt and tantalum are predicted to run out in decades – may prove invaluable. Developing a sustainable future means finding new approaches and fresh ideas. In a field that is still heavily male dominated - women currently make up just 10% of engineering professionals - women in engineering bring a diversity of thought into future product development.
"I grew up with inspirational imagery of women achieving many societal goals including my own family. My mother, grandmother, and aunts, as well as outstanding scientists." - Kris Kerwin
Thanks for agreeing to talk to us, Kris! Please tell us about yourself?
In my spare time I am a parent. I love spending time with my family, going for long weekend walks, having a coffee and cake at a local café with our friends, and feeding squirrels in a park. I also like cycling, reading, fixing things, and watching Star Trek.
How long have you been working at SBI/LSBU?
My relationship with the LSBU goes back to 2013, I’m a former student. After completing a master’s degree, I returned to work on CEDaCI in 2019.
"One thing is for sure, no day is the same and being in research means I learn something new every day."
CEDaCI is a pioneering cross-sector, expert collaboration within the data centre industry. It supports businesses within the sector by raising awareness of the challenges presented by the life cycle and circularity of data centre hardware. We approach this through SME training, co-creation workshops, various publications, and conference participation. CEDaCI has over 20 partners from academia and the industry, spread across seven countries in North-West Europe, and more than 100 companies in its member network.
Please describe to us what your day-to-day life looks like in your job?
A typical day for me would start with checking my diary and catching up on emails. I have several deliverables and deadlines that I work towards. I usually structure my own day to achieve these so the ability to self-manage tasks and time is essential. Depending on the goal my daily tasks can vary. Anything from designing, drawing, and CAD modelling, to disassembling IT equipment and creating component inventories, to reporting and writing conference papers, or life cycle assessment modelling.
I also routinely liaise with our project partners, manager, and other members of our team. One thing is for sure, no day is the same and being in research means I learn something new every day.
Why do you believe celebrating International Women's Day/Month is important?
In my family, and where I come from, we have always celebrated International Women’s Day, and I still do. I remember it being a national holiday when I was a child. It was an important day in our family. My mother always used to bring home loads of red tulips on the 8th March.
I grew up with inspirational imagery of women achieving many societal goals including my own family. My mother, grandmother, and aunts, as well as outstanding scientists such as Valentina Tereshkova, Sofia Kovalevsky, and Pelagia Shajn. These people served as my childhood role models whose great achievements helped me build my character and choose my career path.
I feel strongly about finally breaking down the gender bias because gender discrimination has no place in our century.
Have you had any challenges in your education or career because of your gender? If that's the case, how did you overcome them?
I can’t say I had any gender-related challenges during my education or in my career, but I have friends who did. I did come across gender bias on a personal level when I was younger though, it wasn’t a pleasant experience.
"I feel strongly about finally breaking down the gender bias because gender discrimination has no place in our century."
What is the most valuable piece of advice you've ever received?
“Where there is a will, there is a way.”
When I was a child, my mother used to always say, “Where there is a will, there is a way” to encourage me to accomplish my goals. I guess it stuck with me. To me, it’s important because it means that when we really want to accomplish something, we can always find a way to achieve it.
What can we do to encourage more women to enter STEM?
I think it starts from childhood. There is no doubt that a big part comes from the family’s perception of STEM subjects. However, as a parent of a 12-year-old girl, I notice the huge influence social media has on teens and young adults. I think it is a useful resource and more STEM-related blogging should be pushed through. Platforms such as Tik-Tok are known for their ability to retain user attention, and everyone is on it nowadays. So, popular bloggers/TikTok-ers could play a big role, by talking about famous female scientists and showcasing examples of their work in practice.
What is the most crucial message you would like to express to young women considering careers in STEM?
Choose what you love doing for your career, because that way you will be doing what you love every day.
Is there somebody in your professional life who inspires you?
Yes, the people I work with inspire me. Every person on our team has a bunch of amazing professional and personal qualities that would inspire many.
Why do you believe workplace diversity is so important?
I look at it as an engineer. For example, an engine has many different parts, a diversity of parts. Different parts perform different tasks. Every part is important, and they all must work in cohesion for the engine to function properly. If any of the parts is undermined, then the engine will eventually fail. You wouldn’t buy a vehicle with an engine like that, would you?
"When I was a child, my mother used to always say, “Where there is a will, there is a way” to encourage me to accomplish my goals. I guess it stuck with me."
Well, the work environment, our society, life, are all like an engine. You can only undermine one part for so long before the whole system fails. This is why diversity and equality are important.
Which inspirational women, living or dead, would you invite to dinner and why?
Valentina Tereshkova. I think it’s self-explanatory, who wouldn’t want an astronaut, the first woman in space, for company at dinner?
Catherine the Great and Queen Victoria – I am curious about history, and these are the two of the most influential female royal figures of all time. Both were incredibly strong-willed with different personal lives and different pathways to power. I would love to hear what it was like to be a powerful female in a time when, generally women in society were considered inferior subjects.
Find out more about the CEDaCI programme, and see how your IT business or department could help mitigate pollution and carbon emissions, at cedaci.org.
Do you want support to enter STEM or learn skills that'll help increase sustainability of construction or engineering sectors? You could access fully-funded, flexible support to develop new skills through our new ASPIRE London programme. Start your journey today at aspire-london.com