Diverse agenda - Interview with Naomi Climer - the IET's first female president
In the autumn of 2015 Naomi Climer will become the IET's first female president, but her agenda will not just be 'diversity issues', as she explained to Tim Fryer.
Realistically there is not much in terms of radical change that can be achieved in a single year, which is the duration of a term in office for a president of the IET. Therefore, the onus on presidents is to work closely with predecessors and successors to ensure continuity and commitment to the vision to 'Inform, influence and inspire'.
So, despite her distinction of being the first woman in the role in its 143 year history, Climer sees her appointment as the consequence of a long running theme. "It has to be significant," she admitted.
"But I wouldn't want to give the impression that it is only now that I am a woman president that the IET is going to pick it up. The IET has been campaigning for diversity in engineering for some time and William [Webb], who is the current president, is very passionate about it. It is an obvious thing for me to do, although I don't want it to be my sole focus, but it is a moment when we can make sure people are thinking about the diversity agenda."
Climer is president of Sony's Media Cloud Division and is based in Los Angeles and it is perhaps more the perspective she has from working there, rather than her gender, that will be her driving influence through her year in office.
"The thing I am particularly passionate about is how to improve the image and status of engineering, especially in the UK," she said. "Living in California, engineers are absolute rock stars. I think it has improved a lot in the UK but it doesn't feel quite the same. It doesn't feel like engineering and technology as a career is as prestigious as it ought to be given the range of job opportunities and the sheer diversity of what you can do. If you want to make a difference in the world then engineering and technology is a very good place to be in order to do that."
The much-discussed dearth of engineers coming through the education system has its roots at the ages of 11 to 14. This is according to Engineering UK, who the IET are joining in a programme to get the word out to children of this age. "People can rule themselves out of engineering and technology careers just by the subject choices they make at 14 and 15," claimed Climer, "so we do need to get to children, but there is a strong feeling that getting to teachers and parents is an incredibly important part of that too."
As part of that, the IET is working with Engineering UK on its ambition to get engineering influencers in every single secondary school in the UK. Climer said: "The idea is that it might be a business or it might be an individual, but every school should have access to someone who understands what an engineering career could mean so they can influence the teachers and hopefully, to some extent, the parents, to catch the children at the right age when they are making choices for life."
Finding the right role models to do this is important. While being female, or having an exciting job in engineering might help attract some young people, more will be led by peer-influencing. Climer commented: "We do need young people. Students who are just starting university or engineers who are just starting work also need to be more visible so that the young people who are making choices have access to role models who are more meaningful to them than I could be. For example, quite a few of the recent Young Women Engineer of Year winners, who have a mandate as a role model, are quite active on social media and so are very visible. They are doing quite a range of different exciting things across the engineering spectrum."
Beyond her gender, the other obvious difference between Climer and her predecessors is her location on the West Coast of America. But, she claims, this will not affect her mandatory duties and will in fact bring a different perspective.
"The IET does a really nice job of working with the Government in the UK and making sure it is well informed on technical matters. Those kind of things are quite UK-centric. But because the engineering world is now international, we feel that having a global engineering community is important. So, I do think there is an international agenda that we must keep firmly in mind as we plan for the year. It is one of the things I will naturally bring to the role."
So with only a year in the job, what will count as a success? "It is to do with the image of engineering," responded Climer. "I would like to think that at the end of the year I will feel that the general public as well as policy makers and industry, are seeing engineering in everything, and are more conscious of the role it is playing in everyday life. I would like to think that that level of awareness had gone up as a result of my year."
Naomi Climer - CV
Naomi Climer is Deputy President and Fellow of the IET and President of Sony's new global division – Media Cloud Services, based in Los Angeles, USA, with a mission to develop cloud based services for all parts of the media industry worldwide.
Previously, Naomi headed Sony's B2B organisation in Europe (Sony Professional) providing R&D, Sales and Marketing, Systems Integration and Service covering diverse markets including media, broadcast, cinema, sports, security and healthcare.
After studying at Imperial College, London, Naomi trained as an engineer at the BBC and has worked in technical roles in BBC Radio, BBC World Service and BBC News as well as at ITV and in local radio.
Naomi has a strong interest in diversity issues and has been an active campaigner for gender diversity within Sony and within the engineering profession in the UK. As a result of this, Naomi was short-listed for a WISE Women of Outstanding Achievement Award For Leadership and Inspiration in 2012.
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