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International Women in Engineering Day: Meet the Women Helping to Change the Future of Fire Safety

FireAngel specialises in advanced fire, carbon monoxide and home safety technology and has achieved numerous safety industry firsts, deploying over 70 million products, and holding over 80 granted patents. Behind the scenes, its engineers Usha Hedge, Kirty Nagar and Swathi Kamble are helping the company to revolutionise the fire safety space. 

Despite the growing demand for tech talent, it’s still a male-dominated area with around three in ten roles filled by women. Why do you think there are so few females in tech? 

Usha Hedge, Firmware Engineer: The gender gap is not as simple as encouraging more women to enter the field or encouraging companies to recruit more women. It’s also an issue of retention. Research by the Global Talent Network, Adeva, found that over half (56%) of women in tech leave their careers at the midway point and the primary reason isn’t because they’re unhappy in their jobs. The timing of this movement is likely connected with a correlation that at this time, a woman also tends to start a family and must balance her career with childcare and new responsibilities. In a field that’s highly competitive and demands 100 per cent of your energy, this can be particularly challenging. 

What has been your experience of being a mother in tech? 

Usha Hedge, Firmware Engineer: I was lucky to be working at FireAngel when I had my first child several years ago. They gave me the opportunity to work flexible hours between home and the laboratory, despite there being no company policy to do so at the time. More managers across the tech world need to support women and have the conversation about flexible working to help diversify the industry. Flexibility and remote working in the recruitment process are two of the most effective diversity strategies noted by the 580 signatories of the UK Tech Talent Charter, a collective designed to share data, best practice, and progress on diversity in the industry. Making this common practice could keep more women in the field.  

What challenges have you felt being a woman in tech and how could this be improved? 

Kirty Nagar, Electronics Design Engineer: As women are underrepresented in the field, it can feel lonely. I think all organisations should have a channel or a group for women working in STEM to interact with other female colleagues to share support and guidance. The experience is similar in education, with a distinct lack of female role models. We need more organisations holding events at universities and schools and more female teachers, so that young women can learn about the opportunities available in STEM and hear from women that have progressed in the career. 

What motivated you to work at FireAngel? 

Kirty Nagar, Electronics Design Engineer: There are only so many companies with such a strong purpose. At FireAngel, it’s not just a matter of safety – but a matter of saving lives and there is nothing more precious. In multiple-occupancy houses, terraced homes, and high-rise buildings, a major fire does not just put a single household in danger but potentially hundreds of lives. I’m proud to work on technology that can help prevent a 999 call because I know I’m helping to protect people, their families, and communities. 

Swathi Kamble, Test Engineer: I like challenging myself and developing new skills and that’s what attracted me to the fire industry. The industry is currently recognising that the Internet of Things (IoT) promises to transform fire safety and having the opportunity to work on these types of projects from scratch to deployment is very exciting. With complex technical challenges along the way, it’s a big learning curve but I find it rewarding to know that I can make a difference to every step of the process. 

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