Micron promotes mentorship for International Women in Engineering Day

Michelle Hicks | August 2021

The International Women in Engineering Day is a time to celebrate women engineers and bring attention to the career opportunities available to women in STEM

Engaging more women in STEM is critical to feeding the talent pool for the semiconductor industry. A survey from Deloitte and SEMI shows 82% of semiconductor executives report a shortage of qualified technical candidates, with 60% reporting that electrical engineering jobs are the most difficult to fill.

This year, to recognize this important day, Micron conducted panel discussions at our Asia and U.S. sites, featuring some of our technical women leaders. Celebrating women in engineering and discussing the unique issues they face helps Micron team members increase their understanding and empathy for one other as we strive to strengthen our culture of inclusion, one of our six 2021 commitments established to promote diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI).

Pipeline of female talent is shrinking

One concern for all panelists is the shrinking pipeline of women in leadership. A recent IBM study shows fewer women hold senior vice president, vice president, director and manager roles in 2021 than in 2019 across multiple industries. It’s an issue in STEM careers too. The Society of Women Engineers reports just 30% of women who earn bachelor’s degrees in engineering are still working in the field 20 years later.

During the panel discussions in both Asia and the U.S., discussion covered how the pandemic, which continues to rage across Asia, created additional, disproportionate obstacles for women who often held additional caretaker duties in addition to their full-time jobs. But even before COVID 19, the number of women in leadership was declining.

Nahomi Aoto is a senior director in Technology Development in Japan. She said her daughter once asked her why she works. She said her answer is in part because of the larger vision of what her work in semiconductors contributes to the world. “Through our products, memory solutions, we can contribute to society,” Nahomi said. She also found changing the focus of her work in her 30s from fundamental research to process development helped her stay engaged and interested in her career.

Micron’s Advance Leadership Program for women is working to provide additional opportunities for our women in STEM to continue their development so that they remain engaged at critical career midpoints.

Micron is helping develop the early talent pipeline

Micron invests in many programs to engage girls and young women in STEM to feed the early talent pipeline, not just for Micron but also for the entire semiconductor industry. Through the Global Women’s Mentorship Program, Micron’s global female leaders are making a difference around the world. They have provided mentoring to more than 100 female students from 35 universities in 11 different countries.

Thy Tran, executive sponsor of the Micron Women’s Leadership Network (MWLN) employee resource group, said participating in active mentorship of young girls and women also helps her stay passionate about her work, “I learned from this program that you have to adapt to their diversity and interests and learn to explain things in a way that resonates with them. And that also helps you to become a better mentor.”

Male allies and sponsors make a difference

Ashley Kunz, director of Micron’s Environmental, Health and Safety team in Boise, said there were not many female leaders when she started in her STEM career, but she found support from a male ally, an executive who started guiding her when they met during her enrollment in an executive mentorship program. “He didn't look at me as any different than my male colleagues. We all had equal opportunities and he was very thoughtful in the types of opportunities and encouragement that he gave,” she said.

Many panelists said a supportive network is truly the key to success over a long career. For example, Ye Li, who is a senior manager in Data Science in Xi’an, China, says she has experienced many opportunities thanks to her mentors, “I have an abundance of supportive peers and an inspiring site leader who helped me develop from a senior engineer to a leadership position.”

Director, Diversity, Equality & Inclusion

Michelle Hicks

Michelle Hicks serves as director of communication, strategy and engagement for the Diversity, Equality and Inclusion team at Micron. In this role, Michelle works to elevate Micron’s DEI voice with leaders, team members and external stakeholders to drive greater diversity and inclusion at Micron and across the global semiconductor industry. Michelle has received multiple journalism and communication awards. She is passionate about creating a safe and inclusive workplace culture where employees are empowered to have a positive impact. Michelle is a dog mom who volunteers as a youth mentor. You may catch her trying to stay out of the kitchen on the pickleball court.