Kirsty Ambler, Editor-in-Chief, EMSNow interviews Gayle Paterson, FLITE talks about her aim and ambition for this dedicated organisation for females studying and working in the technology sector.

Kirsty Ambler:  Could you tell us about the creation and idea behind the formation of FLITE?

Gayle Paterson:  Of course, I’m happy to be the FLITE storyteller.  FLITE represents the journeys of three females in tech, myself; Gayle Paterson, Kirsty Ambler and Claire Saunders.  Speaking for myself, in a previous life, I was the Director of Marketing & Communications for Flex in Europe.  In my opinion, Flex was a modern and forward thinking company.  Females held senior positions and I never once witnessed any level of discrimination between the sexes.  As an example, during my time, there were four business units covering the four main market segments.  Two of the four presidents were female, how’s that for equality?!  Not only that, one of the females was the president of the largest segment in terms of revenue, whilst the other was the leader for innovation and new ventures, therefore both held high pressure and revolutionary positions.  Coming out of Flex and entering into various electronic manufacturing companies as a consultant, I was quite shocked at the lack of gender equality at the top, but also saddened by the lack of women throughout the entire industry.  I guess I had been in an artificial bubble within Flex, with my eyes being opened upon departure.  It occurred to me, that I was in a strong position to influence change.  I have an extensive network after being in the electronics industry for nearly 20 years, therefore I thought I’d put my experience and network to use.  I’m a great believer that you don’t just complain about something that you are not satisfied with, you try to do something about it.  FLITE was my way of doing something for all Females in Tech, to connect to one another and build an alliance with a shared voice.  As I started to put the meat on the bones for FLITE, Kirsty Ambler approached me, as she too felt that she was in a unique position to influence, as the Editor-in-Chief of EMSNow, but also wanted to see more females in the world of tech rise to the top.  Kirsty and I launched FLITE, with Claire Saunders (another electronics industry veteran) coming on board.  Like Kirsty, Claire has a platform; What’s New in Electronics, that provides us with another channel to promote our message and raise awareness of our cause.

Ambler:  Do you think the industry needs a specific group to represent the interests and growth of females within the tech sector?

Paterson:  Unfortunately, at this space in time, the answer is yes.  I’d love for us to live in a world where there wasn’t a requirement for gender specific groups, but we’re not there yet.  FLITE exists to highlight the need for gender parity and to raise awareness of how we will work to achieve equality.  Our hope is that our generation, following on from past positive movements, will plot a course to allow our future peers to work together without the current level of gender division that we experience.

Ambler:  What are the main aims and objectives of FLITE?

Paterson:  FLITE is a group that currently exists on the LinkedIn platform and is made up 150+ members who have expressed that they feel a need to connect and share.  FLITE focuses on the positive message of celebrating the achievements of Females in Tech and learning from their experience.  Members are encouraged to coach and mentor existing members and future generations of women entering into Tech.  We want the future generation to see that a successful career in tech is a viable option.  An attractive option, where they will sit at the intersection of science, art, design and tomorrow’s technology.  Where innovation and creativity is at its pinnacle.

FLITE aims to build a platform based on real-life experiences to help raise the visibility of females in technology.

Through our knowledge network, females will come together to; lead the conversation, connect to a common community, share best practice, success stories, achievements and mentor other ambitious females entering into the tech world.

FLITE organises events, publishes articles, blogs and promotional pieces to ensure that members are kept up-to-date with influential and inspirational females, with the shared goal of empowering ourselves and our future generation.

Our partnerships with leading industry news channels enables us to position FLITE, and our members, close to the market, helping us to continuously raise positive awareness, aligned to an accurate perception of how we females really feel about our chosen industry and profession.

Ambler:   How do you plan to realise the aspirations of FLITE?

Paterson:  We hope that industry females will become members and benefit from our extensive knowledge network.  We will also open our channels for females in the tech sector to offer mentorship, or to express an interest to be mentored.  In these instances, FLITE will operate almost as a match-maker.  Linking up the females that we believe will help and support one another, in the best possible way.  It becomes a two-way exchange, mentors often tell us that the experience was not simply rewarding, but educational too.  We all learn from one another and we believe that FLITE goes beyond being a static LinkedIn group.  We are interactive and accessible to one another.

Ambler:  Do you feel there are a lack of female role models within the industry? How do you feel this can be remedied?

Paterson:  I actually think there are a good number of female role models within the industry, I just don’t think that they are celebrated enough.  Females in engineering and tech have come a significant way and we operate in a world where the work was required yesterday, so we don’t often take time out to recognise our achievements and to learn from them.  FLITE’s moto is ‘inspired to empower’ and this is our aim, to build a platform, give thanks to the females who have enabled us to get this far and recognition to the females who are helping us to shape our current reality and open the door to the females who will help to build our future.   Role models need to be seen and heard, as they help us to set goals and try to make their followers as good as they are.  Female role models are important in our industry and if you are one, it is a true privilege.

We hope that through the success and engagement of FLITE we can help to change that perception, to help encourage and support young females considering a career or future in this sector – this is further supported by great incentives like STEM – so hopefully young women can engage with our members and we can help shape the next generation of powerful women in tech.

Ambler:  How can females in tech get involved with the group?

Paterson:  We encourage females to connect through our LinkedIn Group – and we ask them to let us know what they would like to get from their FLITE membership.  Would they like to mentor, or be mentored?  Be active, or be an observer?  Everything and anything is alright by us.

Ambler:   Are there plans for a networking event that women can attend?

Paterson:   We are actually planning to host our inaugural FLITE event at What’s New in Electronics Live.  It is our plan to host a Female Leaders in Tech Networking Lunch from 12noon – 14:00 on the 9th of May at the NEC in Birmingham.   This will be our inaugural event, bringing together our current members and hopefully some new faces, to share our knowledge, helping us to lead by example.

During our two-hour lunch/networking session, you will have the opportunity to meet our members; females who are business owners or decision makers who enjoy meeting, supporting and proactively networking with like-minded females.

We’d also like to open up this platform and invite any of our members, who may be able to offer a few hours per month to mentor our next generation of females starting out on their journey.  On the flip slide, we’d also like to hear from any females who feel they would benefit by being mentored as they enter their career within the electronics industry.