How do female engineers differ

She knows what she's talking about: As an engineer, Eva Knappe knows the everyday working life of women in engineering very well. She noticed that women work differently than men and therefore need different help. The trainer set the goal of promoting women engineers in a targeted manner. In her seminars for technical specialists and executives, which she also successfully offers in the VDI Wissensforum, she focuses specifically on women. We asked Eva Knappe which topics play a special role, how her seminars differ from one another and which tips she gives engineers on their way into professional life.

Ms. Knappe, please introduce yourself briefly in 140 characters.
With over 20 years of management experience as a qualified engineer in international industrial companies, I advise, support and accompany technical specialists and executives today.

Why is it important to specifically promote women engineers?
Since I started studying, not much has changed in the proportion of women in traditional engineering courses. That is why women engineers are still lone warriors in most companies. Often technically excellently qualified and highly competent, they usually work in a technical environment in a male corporate or departmental culture. The engineers are often not aware of the prevailing differences in behavior and communication, they do not know or recognize the implicit rules or they reject them. I therefore consider it important to provide and motivate support here and to encourage women in a targeted manner so that they can develop their own appropriate strategies for their work environment.

Which topics are particularly relevant? Is there such a thing as topic trends?
Assert yourself in a male-dominated environment and still remain a woman - get respect and acceptance - appear self-confident and convincing in conversations, meetings and presentations - make yourself and your own performance visible and sell successes - master difficult situations confidently and deal with your own emotions - that's over the main topics in my opinion.

How do trainings or seminars especially for women differ from events with mixed participants?
At events that I hold with a mixed group of participants in the technical area, the proportion of women is usually 0-20%. Unfortunately, this reflects the reality in most technical companies. So the women also have an exotic status in training and, according to their own statements, feel “under constant observation”. In the special women's seminars, on the other hand, there is usually a very relaxed but concentrated working atmosphere in which new things can be tried out without pressure. The participants particularly appreciate the great openness among each other, the exchange of experiences and the very constructive feedback from the other participants. Topics can also be discussed here that women cannot or do not want to discuss among their male colleagues.

Are you an engineer, but are you currently working in a different job? Would you design your career path again or would you do something differently?
On the whole, I would shape my career path in a similar way. The technical course offers a solid and broad basis for further career paths and opens up a wide range of opportunities. I have worked in various management functions in industry for over 20 years and can now ideally apply my extensive practical knowledge as a consultant and trainer for technical specialists and managers.
What would I do differently? Definitely stronger and more targeted networks and actively looking for support on the way up, e.g. B. in mentoring programs.
I too had the attitude, “I can do this on my own”, like many younger female engineers, unfortunately, apparently.

Why are you involved as a role model in the VDI project MINTalente?
In my opinion, girls should be brought into contact with science and technology as early as possible, preferably in elementary school, when there is still unbiased curiosity. Technology is part of everyday life and it has to be made visible to girls. I think that helps to break down prejudices against technical professions or not to let them arise at all. Unfortunately, girls and young women still associate technology with misconceptions such as "getting dirty", "breaking off fingernails", "technology is a man's business", etc. I would like to clear this up and show the diverse job profiles and possibilities in technology . I am a good example of this with my “moving” résumé.

What tips do you give young women on their way into engineering?
Focus on your goals and consistently pursue them. Get support from experienced managers or mentors. Build a network early on. In the technical area, the VDI, as the largest and supra-regional network, is certainly very helpful. Get a thicker coat and don't take everything personally. Dare yourself to become more visible, especially as a woman among your male colleagues. I like to put it in a quote from Henry Ford: "Whether you think you can or if you think you can't - you will be proved right."

The interview conducted: Cathrin Becker
Position at VDI: Press officer
Tasks at the VDI: Press and public relations, internal communication