Pathways for Hungarian Women in Technical Careers
In 1920, Eszter Pécsi became the first woman in Hungary to receive a degree in engineering and she went on to design the first reinforced-concrete skyscraper (American-Hungarian Federation, 2013). Fast forward to 2009, 1,161 Hungarian women earned university degrees in engineering, representing 36.2 percent of the degrees conferred in the country and the highest percent among European countries (Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering, National Science Foundation, 2013).
Although there is a commendable history of women in engineering, Alcoa in Hungary and other companies are facing stiff competition for engineers in general. To increase the supply of people in engineering and technical careers, Alcoa in Hungary undertook three initiatives.
Firstly, in anticipation of Hungary joining the European Union in 2004, Alcoa entered into a three-year partnership with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics to revise its electrical and mechanical engineering curricula to comply with European Union’s standards. With greater opportunities for Hungarian engineers across Europe, more students, including more women, are pursuing the degree.
Second, under the leadership of Eszter Szabó, Regional HR Manager, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products, Alcoa got involved with an initiative to increase the number of women in engineering called POWEngR. Started in July 2013, POWEngR’s objectives are to achieve greater gender diversity in all occupations, and to improve business results through diversity. The initiative kicked off with a workshop for interns and women employees, and resulted in the launch of the Ambassador Program, which engages secondary school students in discussions about technical and non-technical careers. For the remainder of 2013, POWEngR will host open days for women engineering students to become involved in the Ambassador Program.
Third, Alcoa in Hungary is increasing the number of secondary-school students interested in the skilled trades, or being operators and technicians on the shop floor. Through a three-year partnership with Váci Mihály Ipari Szakképző Iskola és Kollégium, female and male students with secondary-school degrees are completing aluminum fabrication certificates that are in high demand among companies in Székesfehérvár region.
The overall goal is to get more girls and women access to information about careers in engineering and increase the talent pipeline. With help from Alcoa Foundation partners, by 2020 the percentage of women earning an engineering degree will have increased to 40 percent.