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Norway: women engineers on the rise

Norway: women engineers on the rise

| Text and photo: Bjørn Lønnum Andreaasen

Ingvild Wang (24) has a master of technology from Norway’s University of Science and Technology, NTNU. She believes role models and equal education opportunities have led to a good proportion of women among young engineers.

Wang’s expertise is technical analysis within energy and the environment. She is an environmental advisor for the consultancy company Rambøll AS in Trondheim. 

“The bulk of my work is assessing technical aspects of the lifespan of for instance a house. Should it be made from concrete or wood, which methods will result in the smallest climate footprint? We look at reducing CO2 emissions to a minimum, but also things like over-fertilisation, water acidification and other nature and environment issues.”

Not alone

Wang explains that women made up around 45% of all master of technology students during her time at NTNU.

“While I was studying there, extra 'female points' were removed. Before that, women got two extra points when they applied to study technology. The number of female students fell a bit when these points disappeared, but I would say the gender balance is still pretty good. There are also many women in my department at Rambøll. So being a young woman here is not difficult.

“It took a long time before we had a female lecturer when I was a student. The differences have been extreme among the generations before us. This has probably not done recruitment to academia any favours, because representation is very important. You need role models to see what you can become,” she says and adds that technology jobs do not seem to have been adapted to suit women over the years. 

Nearly exclusively men

Wang uses hydroelectrics as a field with a heavy male dominance. One seminar she took part in was attended nearly exclusively by men between 50 and 60.

“There is a much larger proportion of women in my age group. This will be seen in the labour market as we begin to take over. Sometimes I attend meetings where everyone else is male. I can present economically challenging proposals for climate-related measures which are yet to match traditional measures on price. I don’t get far with this, but not because I am female. It is because climate issues are still relatively new. People don’t quite know how to put a price on nature and what it actually costs to destroy it,” she says.

Wang has considered her young age to be a challenge, but as long as she can back up what she is saying with professional expertise, no customers react badly.

“Jobs change as society changes. More women take technology educations and know different things and more things than previously. Society is better prepared for women, who still have to give birth. The number of women with technology educations in the generations before us has increased, so we get more role models. I also think women dare more and are encouraged to take the jobs they want to take,” says Wang.

The role models are there

Her own role model is Line Drange Ruud, head of power plants at Glitre Energi.

“Ruud is a proper happy-feminist. She is incredibly professionally competent and a real nerd, while she is also keen to attract more women to the energy sector. Ruud does everything in a positive way. There is no ‘beat the boys’ attitude,” says Wang.

“My university course, energy and environmental engineering, used to be called ‘high voltage technology’ and had very few women students. I think changing the name helped a little, but I don’t think it is necessary to adapt subjects or occupations to suit women. The important thing is that everyone gets an equal opportunity to take a higher education in technology. ”

Both her parents have technology degrees. She has never been a stranger to choosing a technology education. Wang has always liked mathematics, physics and other sciences.

Ingvild Wang

“I have always found it fun since way back when it was called natural sciences in school. I used to dismantle radios as a child to see how they worked. And I learned cosinus and sinus because my father drew and explained it to me while cross-country skiing. I attended technology camp for girls at NTNU in Trondheim when I was in upper secondary education. The camp was sponsored. I think such measures have been effective and they have been important. But special recruitment measures for girls will probably be less important with time,” believes Wang.

The increasing number of women studying, working with or teaching technology will lead to an automatic increase in recruitment, she believes. 

Three bottom lines

Rambøll looks at sustainability through three bottom lines, we learn.

“Social, climate/environmental and economical sustainability. Rambøll is certified according to the UN’s 17 sustainability goals as the first consultancy firm in the world. We look at the environment and pollution, while my speciality is climate change.”  

Wang explains that the environment focus also covers employees. They cycle to work, eat some vegan food and more. Externally they are pushing customers towards solutions that benefit the climate. 

“It used to be just the environment department that worked with sustainability. Now everyone at Rambøll is expected to do so, regardless of which departments are involved in a project. We are not doing green-washing of anything for anyone. We are focused on pushing to see what is possible. As an environmental adviser, I mainly work on the environmental side of sustainability,” she says, adding that the environment and climate issues have been a hobby for a long time. 

“When I was a student and started choosing subjects like industrial ecology, I realised that this could become my career. I have taken many technology subjects and got my specialisation. I have also looked at the links between politics and sustainability. Climate change is pretty complicated with many mechanisms that influence each other,” she says and concludes that the job can be pretty technical.


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