Take Five: “When you have a well-defined goal, all the objectives you set are achievable”
In the digital era, an increasing number of girls and women are choosing to study STEM and/or ICT fields. Teachers play a significant role in this trend, encouraging and promoting this path. To commemorate International Education Day, we explore how educators can inspire young women to opt for a career in fields perceived as male-dominated. We also spoke with Dr. Lilia Sava, Dean of the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications at the Technical University of Moldova, about how education contributes to building an equal and inclusive society.
What motivated you to dedicate yourself to the field of electronics, considering it is perceived as a predominantly male domain?
I actually graduated from the Faculty of Economic Cybernetics, Statistics and Informatics at the Academy of Economic Studies of Moldova. Later, I was appointed to work at the Technical University of Moldova (UTM) in the Faculty of Radio Electronics, Department of Optoelectronic Systems. I began my career teaching management, micro-macroeconomics and statistics. My decision to stay at UTM was influenced by the organizational culture and harmonious team environment. After 24 years at the university, I was appointed Dean of the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications (FET) in March 2023. My main goals in this role are to promote the faculty's image in the ICT industry and to increase the quality of education, as well as the number of students studying electronic communication engineering.
What opportunities and challenges do you think girls who want to pursue a career in electronics and telecommunications face?
In terms of opportunities, I'd highlight that rapid technological advancement increases the demand for professionals in electronic communications and telecommunications. This provides significant opportunities for girls to build successful careers in these fields. An important trend is the private sector's recent move towards gender equality, enhancing employment opportunities for women. This shift provides an equitable platform for women to access professional opportunities and career advancement.
Regarding challenges, girls may face barriers related to stereotypes and prejudices, impacting their confidence and professional aspirations. Additionally, challenges in women's careers often become more evident post-employment, especially in the context of marriage, pregnancy and maternity leave. These events can influence women's career trajectories, as managing family responsibilities often leads to career breaks.
Men tend to maintain more continuity in their professional activities and progress more smoothly in their careers. However, our analysis shows that many of our female graduates have become project managers in leading companies, both in electronic communications and other sectors.
In recent years, we've observed a shift in perspective on career opportunities, without clear distinctions between girls and boys. This reflects a progressive approach, supporting the idea that everyone, regardless of gender, should have equal opportunities in electronic communications.
What role can teachers play in girls' decisions to enter STEM fields, and what programmes or initiatives are being undertaken at FET to support and encourage girls to study in this domain?
I believe that motivating girls to choose electronic communications should start in high school. One influential factor is the division of high school studies into humanities and sciences.
Usually, in areas outside Chișinău, there are more humanities classes available due to students’ reluctance towards exact sciences. One solution is to inform high school girls about the benefits of working in electronic communications, especially the numerous vacant positions with competitive salaries in Moldova's labor market.
At the university level, the Faculty of Electronics and Telecommunications initiates programmes to encourage girls to study in this field. We organize informational sessions and company tours, particularly for female students, to learn about these companies' activities. Discussions with women in leadership positions are held to motivate female students to study electronic communications and set high goals.
For higher education at FET, there are three popular study programmes, with girls usually directed to choose the Engineering and Management in Telecommunications programme, as it offers both engineering and economic disciplines. After graduation, they can successfully work in various related fields.
We also encourage girls to engage in research activities, such as student, master's or doctoral conferences; research projects; exhibitions; etc. We also offer opportunities to work as graduate assistants for the faculty.
What is the role of education, particularly universities, in promoting and building an equal, inclusive society without discrimination, and how does the faculty address gender equality?
The role of education is very important for young people. Depending on the education they receive, first at home then in high school, we continue this process to shape highly qualified specialists. If there are any gaps, we organize additional training at the university.
During the admissions process, we focus on inclusive education and aim to enroll as many girls as possible. We've noticed that groups with more girls compete more fairly and achieve better academic results. Girls have a positive impact on boys, motivating them to study diligently and complete tasks.
One way we’re promoting gender equality this year is by organizing summer school programmes, which will train and familiarize middle and high school girls with the field of electronic communications and employment opportunities. Through these summer schools, we hope to influence the career direction of young female high school graduates, who may later pursue higher education at the faculty, increasing the proportion of women employed in ICT.
I'd like to also point out that in terms of FET's leadership, there are more women than men, demonstrating our commitment to gender equality and opportunity.
What message would you send to girls who are considering a career in STEM or ICT but are still undecided or facing uncertainties?
I would tell girls not to be afraid of choosing an engineering career, as they are capable, responsible, ambitious and have every chance to become excellent specialists in electronic communications, or to become managers of leading companies. We will support them. When you have a well-defined goal, all the objectives you set are achievable.
UN Women Moldova has helped supply FET’s electronics laboratory with sensors and other equipment necessary to ensure a high-quality education, meet the current training needs and support the institution's educational and research objectives. The laboratory's equipment will not only contribute to developing students' skills according to industry requirements but also attract a larger number of female students to the faculty.