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Electronic design automation (EDA) has been experiencing a renaissance of sorts, breaking new ground in broader markets that focus on the computational (mathematical/data-driven) aspects of intelligent system design. While the industry has long played an essential role in semiconductor design, new requirements and skills are required for system analysis, integration, multi-core computing, and artificial intelligence—largely driven by the massive amounts of data and the need to perform multi-physics analysis of the entire system.
For more than 30 years, Cadence has partnered closely with our customers to create amazing technologies that enable the vast array of electronic devices we rely on every day. Our sphere of influence is broad, encompassing a host of markets including consumer, hyperscale computing, mobile, communications, automotive, aerospace, industrial, and healthcare. We attribute our success to our laser-sharp customer focus, creativity, collaboration, and teamwork, our ability to explore what’s possible, and our quality execution that drives results for even the most demanding customers.
Behind these successful engagements are many decades of valuable life and work experience, much of it gained working side by side with our customers to address their most pressing design challenges. As the industry continues to evolve and become increasingly specialized and complex, attracting bright new talent is imperative. At this critical juncture, there’s no better time to encourage more young women to embark on a STEM career. The semiconductor and systems ecosystem, and EDA in particular, is a great place for them to make their mark. We can only benefit from the perspective and skills women bring to the table.
In EMEA, and in the UK specifically, there aren’t enough women pursuing science and engineering degrees at the university level. According to the Engineering UK 2018 report, as interpreted by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES), only 25.4% of girls aged 16-18 would consider a career in engineering, compared to 51.9% of boys. Girls and women comprise less than 18% of higher apprentices in engineering and manufacturing, and 7.4% of all engineering apprentices. Yet in all STEM A-Levels except chemistry, more girls get A-C grades than boys.
Girls’ lack of interest and representation in the engineering ranks can be attributed to educational and societal factors. While pre-teens might initially express interest in STEM, a 2017 Microsoft study found these girls’ interest waned for a variety of reasons, including a shortage of female role models in STEM, lack of practical, hands-on experience, and a shortage of teachers that talk about STEM. The study found that role models and support both at home and in the classroom were key to sustaining girls’ interest in STEM subjects. It’s clear the way STEM is taught at school needs to change but undertaking such a shift is a monumental task.
Engineering itself should be promoted as a profession since there is often ambiguity about the role of an accredited engineer, and we must encourage greater diversity in all spheres of engineering. In the UK, enticing more women to join the engineering ranks has become a priority. Girls need more relatable role models in the popular press, as well as support and encouragement at home. We must help these young women explore what’s possible and envision all they can do with a STEM degree. Reflecting our complex world today, career advice should be holistic and encompass more than just traditional roles. For instance, there are a variety of career paths one can pursue with a physics degree besides being a physicist. As the industry continues to evolve and become increasingly specialized and complex, attracting bright new talent is imperative.
My own career trajectory is a good example. I graduated from university with a Bachelor of Science degree in business information technology, which was essentially a software development degree with a small commercial business element. I wasn’t interested in being a software developer, but my education provided a good base to spring from. I thought I wanted to do product marketing. My career grew from there, and I ended up in sales. Women may realize they have an aspiration to do something, only to later find out they may not do it well or even enjoy it. And that’s okay!
Once women decide to embark on a STEM career, they need both male and female executive sponsors to help them grow their careers and climb the ladder. Early in my career, I was fortunate enough to have a male mentor whose support played a critical role in my career development. Upon graduating from university, I started out doing marketing and PR at a small research lab that was a spinout of EMI Music. It wasn’t a core strength and I didn’t enjoy it. Then I started doing business development with the CEO, who was my champion. He recognized where I excelled and wanted to find the right job for me. I was really good at talking to customers and contributed to the first wins in the company’s early days. His support early on was very important in my career development. I worked with him later at another company, and we’re still very close 20 years later.
In addition to encouraging more women to embark on STEM careers and fostering their career growth, we also need to attract new talent into EDA—regardless of gender. Software engineering graduates coming out of university today naturally gravitate toward systems companies like Google and Facebook. Cadence and the rest of our ecosystem historically have had difficulty competing to recruit this new talent because most graduates don’t fully understand the vital role we play. Until recently, our industry wasn’t viewed as modern, exciting, and edgy, but it truly is! Collectively we have some of the brightest minds in the world enabling exciting new technologies that are not only making major contributions to society but also influencing how we interact with the world in our everyday lives.
With more industry talent contemplating retirement in the next decade, it’s crucial that we create a larger pool of qualified candidates. Recruiting new talent to the industry and fostering more female technical talent are both key to this effort. It’s time for the entire ecosystem—Cadence, our competitors, partners, and customers—to unite to address this challenge. For the continued health and growth of this vital industry and the customers we serve, we need to work together.