A Distinctly Softer Side of Science
As a production planner and warehouse supervisor at Greene Tweed’s Chemraz® perfluoroelastomer (FFKM) manufacturing facility in Zhubie City, Hsinchu County, Taiwan, Avis Wu has a proven track record of accomplishment and innovation presiding over enormous growth for the company for more than ten years.
Greene Tweed’s Taiwan operations serve the semiconductor industry with unparalleled inhouse custom design capabilities for elastomer O-rings and sealing systems in the harsh chemical and extreme temperature environments of semiconductor fabrication equipment.
Greene Tweed is a company with an international manufacturing footprint and Avis has been an integral part of the company’s impressive growth while returning remarkable monthly metrics for safety, quality, on-time-delivery, productivity, and costs. “Taiwan’s scorecards each month are impressive,” said Greene Tweed’s Enterprise Value Stream Manager, Carolina Rodriguez. “Productivity is high, scrap is usually low, and the team seldom carries a lot of inventory. Avis’ contributions and talent are a major reason why the numbers from the Taiwan team are always on target. I am extremely proud of Avis as an inspirational emerging leader – and my colleague – representing Greene Tweed’s Women of STEM.” (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math)
Expand your imagination
Avis encourages other women to dream bigger, expand their imaginations, and keep curious about everything. According to Avis, women will excel in the STEM jobs of the future because they bring a distinctly softer side of science into the exciting opportunities of industry 4.0 and other technological breakthroughs like artificial intelligence (AI), industrial internet of things (IIoT), virtual reality, smart factory, and digital transformations.
The softer side of science that Avis refers to includes a focus on the human interface with these technologies. From ergonomics to psychology, women tend to think of equipment and processes with a greater focus on the human interactions. Sharper listening skills, greater sensibility, ease with collaboration, comfort with communicating, and an innate talent for multi-tasking – together with data and analytics gives women more versatility and a wider range of competencies for the complex problem solving required for most STEM fields including engineering.
With a background and training in industrial ergonomics, Avis brings a special focus to the human aspects of the production line. “I like to re-think from the perspective of ergonomics how I can optimize the design of a product, production line, or workstation to eliminate stress, uncomfortable positioning, or safety for employees whereby increasing efficiency and productivity.” From the perspective of psychology, Avis believes the relationship between employees and machines will get even more complicated with the advent of Industry 4.0 automation, data, analytics, and IIoT into the factory. As repetitive tasks are replaced by robot technology, less brawn and more brains are needed. “The differences between men and women are more invisible in the smart factory of the future. I see more women entering STEM fields bringing that softer side to all the new science and technology in manufacturing.”
Trust your instincts
“When I first started at Greene Tweed, we were just ramping up the manufacturing operations. We didn’t have much manpower, so everyone needed to wear many hats.” At the time, Avis recalls, production planners had to cover other functions as well as manufacturing including logistics, procurement, tool management, production quality and control. Improving efficiency, maximizing capacity, and meeting the semiconductor industries rigid metrics for safety, quality, on-time delivery, and cost required quick decisions from multiple incoming data sources within tight time constraints.
“I learned a lot during that time about trusting my instincts, keeping an open mind, and using data to speak up for myself. I think women bring a different kind of sensibility to engineering that can sometimes take our colleagues by surprise. It is that distinctly softer side of science that brings a wider mix of disciplines that will be important for future innovations and technology breakthroughs.
“Many of my female friends stayed away from STEM education for fear of the advanced math and science requirements not realizing they had so much to add to these disciplines,” said Avis who acknowledges the difficulties of being the first generation of women to enter primarily male dominated fields. “You must learn to trust your own instincts before you can gain the trust of your colleagues. Building the confidence to speak your mind takes time, and it isn’t always easy.”
Follow your dreams
Although engineering was not the original plan, Avis’ mother quickly discovered her proclivity toward math and science. “Like many Asian children,” says Avis, “I had the chance to learn a diversity of skills. Since I was very young, I learned piano, ballet, drawing, volleyball, roller skating – not only for education, but also for exploring.” Avis’ parents thought she might become a teacher until it was clear that her compelling interest and strong focus was more in line with STEM subjects. “I am grateful to my parents for their support and for always encouraging me to follow my dreams.”
Avis’ STEM education focused on increasing industrial productivity and cost competitiveness through highly systematic and widely applicable wholistic methodologies. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering and Management from National Chiao-Tung University in Taiwan, a Master of Human Ergonomics, and a background in production efficiency, Avis designs efficient production processes and optimizes each employee’s interaction with those processes by incorporating a mix of several disciplines including ergonomics, psychology, mathematics, information technology, and production planning and management.
International Women of STEM – By the Numbers
Mentoring and serving as an example to other women continues to be very important for the world’s Women of STEM.
According to a February 2020 study conducted by the World Economic Forum, only a fraction of female students currently select STEM-related fields in higher education.
Data provided by the United Nations for this study shows that Global female enrollment is particularly low in certain fields. Just 3% of students joining information and communication technology (ICT) courses across the globe are women. That improves slightly to 5% for mathematics and statistics courses. And it increases to 8% for engineering, manufacturing and construction courses.
Women are more attracted to STEM courses in some regions of the world than others, but the global situation remains characterized by gender imbalances. Women hold only 18.5 percent of the research positions in South and West Asia and 23.4 percent in East Asia and the Pacific. These low numbers of female researchers reflect the reality of gender inequalities within education, and in particular the STEM fields according to The Diplomat, February 2020.
Data from education bodies UCAS and HESA shows women make up 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK, for example. The UK data is representative of the global outlook.
UK Female student enrollment by subject:
According to the Institute for Statistic’s (UIS) Gender Equality Program and Women in Science data, less than 30% of the world’s researchers are women. UIS data also show the extent to which these women work in the public, private or academic sectors, as well as their fields of research. But to truly reduce the gender gap, many organizations are currently engaged in research to go beyond the hard numbers and identify the qualitative factors that deter women from pursuing careers in STEM.
In response, the UIS is developing a series of new indicators about the dynamics that shape women’s decisions to pursue STEM careers – from their educational pathways to the social factors, such as starting a family and workplace environment. The data will then be used as an evidence base to better target policies at the national, regional and global levels through a new project, known as SAGA (STEM and Gender Advancement), financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).
Greene Tweed will continue to follow this important work in an effort to influence more female students toward the STEM fields looking toward Vision 2030 and the talent needed in the workforce of the future.