Fostering an Inclusive and Equitable Workplace

“Before attending Women in Semiconductors, I was unsure what to expect from the semiconductor industry or if I would be able to get involved in the field with my skill assets. I was surprised to find that events such as WiS exist within the industry and that they are actively giving people the support, resources, and empathy needed for a successful career. I am now more confident and invigorated to join the semiconductor industry.”

– Deanna Ko, Ph.D. candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and first-time attendee

SOURCE: SEMI Blog

It has been almost a decade since SEMI leadership was approached by a SEMI member with the idea to host a program focused on supporting women in the chip industry. The first Women in Semiconductors (WiS) program, held in 2016, drew 60 people to hear from two speakers, one a man who shared that he didn’t have to worry about childcare because his wife didn’t work outside the home.

Reflecting the growing strength of the movement to address challenges for women in the workplace but also help them succeed and move into positions of leadership, Women in Semiconductors (WiS) 2024 reached record attendance of nearly 220 with six speakers. Better still, a record 15% of men attended the event in Albany, New York – a testament to the importance of the topic and the growing understanding that, as an industry, we cannot leave any talent behind for us to continue to thrive.

Since that first WiS, many companies have embraced diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as a way to increase business performance and promote greater equity among underrepresented workers. Yet work-from-home policies prompted by a global pandemic and embraced particularly by women have largely been reversed at many companies. Even before the pandemic, finding affordable childcare was a challenge for many families. With legions of workers required to return to office work, the struggle continues. More broadly, in a troubling trend, DEI initiatives in some states are being defunded and their sponsors even threatened with lawsuits.

Women in Semiconductors

Based on the challenges that women continue to face in the workplace, the WiS committee chose a theme that would resonate across the industry: Fostering an Inclusive and Equitable Workplace. The goal was to address the need for creating an inclusive workplace for women in the semiconductor industry, where promoting diversity, fostering inclusion, and ensuring equitable opportunities are crucial to attracting and retaining talent, driving innovation and building a strong and sustainable workforce.

Committee co-chairs Brittney Graff, Ph.D., Sr. Global Product Marketing Manager at Brooks Instrument, and Mayrita Arrandale, Senior Account Manager at Applied Materials, set out to create a program that would help attendees make meaningful connections, develop new soft skills, and recognize that they belong to greater network and community of women and allies. Their hope was that attendees would leave the event empowered and inspired to affect positive change in their workplaces.

WiS 2024 was sponsored through generous support from AxcelisEnergetiqEntegrisGlobalFoundriesIBMKokusai ElectricNY CREATESOnto Innovation and TEL.

 

Finding Support Through Spheres of Influence

A staggering one third of semiconductor employees in the U.S. will retire in the next decade, per a recent McKinsey report, Danielle Baptiste, Vice President and General Manager of Enterprise Software at Onto Innovation, noted in her WiS keynote address Harnessing Your Spheres of Influence, Cultivating Your Talent.

Baptiste shared her journey, an honest recounting of personal challenges that changed her in unexpected ways. She said that by looking at our spheres of influence, we can determine that we are not alone in facing life challenges, including those at work. We need to develop a personal boardcomprised of respected colleagues, past and current managers, and friends – the people you can call on for advice or perspective.

Baptiste urged the audience to ask for help, advice, and have conversations with someone who might be able to offer you new insights. She encouraged everyone to celebrate success as well as enjoy the simple things in life. She encouraged attendees to understand the value of lifelong learning and be curious and discover the power and satisfaction of cultivating your spheres of influence, which includes giving back to others.

Diversity is a fact, Equity is a choice, Inclusion is an action, Belonging is an outcome.

Valerie Wright, MBA, Director, Global DEI People Talent & Retention at EMD Electronics, guided the packed ballroom in a lively and interactive workshop on Inclusive: Building Bridges to Innovation, Belonging, and Success. Wright invited attendees to focus on three areas that were pre-selected from a registrant survey: Career Advancement, Strategies to Increase Visibility, and Identifying and Overcoming Barriers.

The energy in the room was palpable as Wright encouraged everyone to reflect and explore possible solutions to the focus topics. Following table discussions, Wright invited audience members to share insights on each area with fellow attendees. These included knowing when to walk away from a situation that cannot be immediately solved and reaching out to a senior person for an informal coffee chat to increase your visibility in your organization. Wright urged everyone to share what they learned at workshop with their teams to build a more inclusive workplace – a space where everyone feels valued, respected, and heard.

Valerie Wright of EMD Electronics gets audience feedback.

Making a Positive Impact

“Workforce development is crucial for the future of our industry, but it’s equally important to continually emphasize Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging,” said Shari Liss, Executive Director of the SEMI Foundation in her opening comments as moderator of this year’s WiS panel Advocating for Real Change: Why Equity and Inclusion Need to be Everyone’s Concern. “By fostering inclusive environments, we not only build a stronger, more innovative workforce but also ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

The panel included Stephanie Bojarski, Ph.D., Quantum Integration and Mask Design Manager at Intel; Christopher Fontana, Vacuum and Pressure BU Manager at Brooks Instrument (a Division of ITW); Shravanthi Manikonda, Ph.D., Member of Technical Staff at GlobalFoundries; and Sarah McDonald, Application Engineer at Entegris. Liss led panelists through a list of questions submitted in real-time by audience members. Panelists reflected on a collective commitment to equity and inclusion and the exciting potential for meaningful change in the semiconductor industry workforce.

Panelists (left to right): Stephanie Bojarski, Ph.D., Quantum Integration and Mask Design Manager at Intel; Christopher Fontana, Vacuum and Pressure BU Manager at Brooks Instrument (a Division of ITW); Shravanthi Manikonda, Ph.D., Member of Technical Staff at GlobalFoundries; Sarah McDonald, Application Engineer at Entegris. Moderator (far right) Shari Liss, Executive Director of the SEMI Foundation

The wide-ranging discussion addressed issues such as the continued need for affordable childcare to being explicit about employee needs, whether on the job or for their personal well-being. The panelists addressed hepeating (when man repeats something a woman has said), mansplaining (a man explaining concepts to a woman in a condescending way) and stress related to return-to-work policies. The speakers also spoke about the importance of sponsoring women, flexible work schedules, amplifying the voices of those who don’t have a seat at the table, and taking a firm stand when necessary to get the job done.

On the topic of recruiting new talent, panelists commented that if you only look for specific candidate with job skills, and recruit from the same pool of talent or school, you may miss a superstar. Finally, panelists discussed the importance of being present and engaged in your community – whether at work or at home – in inspiring interest from others in working in the semiconductor industry, and that an inclusive workforce starts with an inclusive workplace.

One Male Ally’s Journey

Given the focus on inclusion at this year’s WiS, the event highlighted the work of an ally to women in semiconductors, Mark Blythe, Chief Marketing Officer at Kokusai Electric. In his talk Allyship in the Workplace, Blythe shared his journey of being a passive supporter of women to becoming an active ally who is more engaged and empathetic to challenges faced by women. He attended WiS in November 2023 and came away with a greater appreciation of the role allies can play in supporting women. Blythe actively listens to women on his team and reads books such as Good Guys: How Men can be Better Allies for Women in the Workplace.

“The entire experience has been extremely rewarding for me,” said Blythe. “In preparing for my talk, I am pleased to have developed a much deeper and broader understanding of the key challenges facing women in the semiconductor workplace. I truly believe that allyship is something that everyone, especially men, can offer to make a real difference.”

Blythe appealed to those in the audience, especially men, to be proactive by pushing back on man-terruptions in meetings, amplifying women’s ideas at meetings and giving women a seat at the table when and where decisions are made.

Following the event Pati Barclay, Senior Associate, Director of Business Development, CS ARCH, and first-time Women in Semiconductors attendee said: “I have to say that after 35 years of going to conferences, this was one of the best.”

As a final action, and to show support for each other, participants in the in the Women in Semiconductors program are invited to sign a Pledge for Action: Bridging the Gap through Allyship. By signing the pledge, people and companies are taking a step forward to act – to increase equity and parity for women and underrepresented minorities in semiconductor industry.

Margaret Kindling is Senior Program Manager for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the SEMI Foundation. She promotes inclusion and diversity through her work, including management of Women in Semiconductors, SEMICON West Workforce Pavilion programming and Semiconductor PRIDE.

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