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How to increase gender equality in early R&D
Two thesis students at Volvo CE have been exploring ways to design gender equality into early phase product development in a bid to make engineering and construction more accessible for all.
The thesis work by Louise Axelsson and Sandra Landmark is instrumental in helping Volvo CE become a more sustainable business from the inside out – and will help the company achieve a greater gender balance.
Their studies have involved months of interviewing everyone from engineers, assemblers and designers to secondary school students and teachers, across genders and different backgrounds, to ensure as wide a perspective as possible. It questions not only who is developing the products, but also for whom, and investigates aspects such as: what do you value most about your choice of work, what is needed for you to do a better job and what are your hopes for the future.
The focus of the study is to ensure a greater understanding of what is required from product development to accommodate future customers.
Sandra Landmark (left) and Louise Axelsson are striving for greater gender equality in engineering
Louise says: “Throughout this process it’s become clear that if we don’t design for everyone, it can be a safety issue. If we do not ensure that every person has full visibility and full capacity to stretch and move with ease inside the cab, for example, that could be dangerous. I think it’s vital that everyone in society – no matter their gender – is able to do the job they want to do and I am proud that Volvo CE is promoting the importance of this. Not including 50% of the world population in early development of new technologies would be a mistake.”
Both Louise and Sandra have first-hand experience of the gender bias that can exist in engineering and feel that they had to overcome additional hurdles, as females, in order to succeed in their careers.
Sandra says: “I have always been more interested in the practical, technical side of engineering but it was never offered to me as a suitable option at school; I was always directed instead towards more of the social or behavioral side of the subject. I realized at school that I wanted to study product development, but I was too afraid to be the only girl in class. It was only at university that I was brave enough to make that decision.”