How Do We Improve Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Semiconductor Industry?

How Do We Improve Gender Diversity and Inclusion in the Semiconductor Industry?

In 2018, gender diversity and inclusion (D&I) ranked right up there with artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, and panel-level packaging as a hot-button topic for panel discussions at most of the semiconductor industry and advanced packaging events I attended (as well as those I didn’t).

ECTC 2018 featured its annual women’s panel and reception, and IMAPS International hosted an informal reception and discussion on how to improve gender diversity and draw more young people into the microelectronics and packaging workforce.  SEMI kicked things up a notch, collocated its third Women in Semiconductors Conference with its annual ASMC Conference in Saratoga, and hosting diversity and inclusion (D&I) panels as part of its workforce development initiative at both SEMICON West and SEMICON Europa; as well as holding a women-in-tech panel session at SEMICON Taiwan. The list goes on.

Why Diversity and Inclusion Matters

According to a study by Boston Consulting Group, companies with than 20% women in management show a significant jump in revenue. Additionally, companies with more diversity in leadership generate 45% innovation revenue, vs. 26% of below-average leadership diversity.

Despite these findings, women are still under-represented at decision-making levels in semiconductor companies. According to statistics reported by SEMI Europe’s Cassandra Melvin during the D&I panel at SEMICON Europa, in the European Union alone, women represent only 25.3% of board members, 7.1% of board chairs, and 5.5% of CEOs.

The Goal of D&I Panels

By featuring women who have made it to leadership roles on these panels, and having them share their stories of achievement, the hope is that more women will be inspired that they too can live the dream of someday being a C-suite executive at a semiconductor company.

Like most of the other panels at other conferences, the D&I SEMICON Europa drew a large audience of both men and women, who came armed with questions for the three panelists: Maria Marced, President, TSMC Europe; Françoise Chombard, CEO Melexis; and Susan Weiher, Sr director, Fab 1, GlobalFoundries.

Their paths to the top were varied: Marced took a traditional, work-your-way up the ladder approach, moving from engineering to marketing roles, and then to president. Chombard co-founded a company with two men. At senior director level with the C-suite still in her sights, Weiher said she was honored to be seated between two such successful women. The most common link between the three women is that they all launched their careers in Europe, not the US.

During the panel discussion, SEMI president Ajit Manocha reported that in the US, men hold 95% of the C-suite positions, and women only 5%. “We don’t help or support them. Rather, we discourage them,” he said. Manocha is trying to change that, beginning with SEMI’s workforce development initiative.

The panelists offered their perspectives and observations, which I summed up here:

  • Most leadership roles are held by men, who were hired by the male leaders before them. Breaking that pattern is difficult.
  • It’s not men or women individually that needs to change. It’s the management. They need to change the way they determine the chain of command.
  • The pioneers have it the hardest, and it gets progressively easier.
  • Mentoring both men and women on matters of diversity and inclusion should be considered.
  • Diversity is measurable, inclusion is not. Meeting quotas and allowing women to influence matters are two different things. However, when everyone is invited to participate and offer opinions it encourages different points of view.

Not a New Problem

The lack of gender diversity in technical fields is nothing new. And neither are the efforts to change that. A quick Google search reveals that there are formal organizations in existence across around the world that touch all segments of technology with catchy (and not so catchy) names like Women in Tech, IEEE Women in Engineering, SEMI Women in Semiconductors (SEMI-WIS), Society of Women Engineers (SWE), Women in the Enterprise of Science and Technology (WEST), and of course, SemiSisters. Social media is rife with hashtags like #WomeninTech, #WomeninSTEM, #GirlsWhoCode, #SemiSisters, #WiT… you get the idea.

Despite the efforts of all these organizations through their conferences, panel discussions, and scholarship funds, the ratio of women to men remains low, particularly in engineering fields, and in the semiconductor and related industries. So, what’s to be done about it?

Walking the Walk

Maybe it’s time to shift gears from talking about the problems to implementing real change. Rather than holding special diversity and inclusion panels as part of a semiconductor event, we should focus on making the events themselves more diverse. Additionally, focusing less on diversity and more on inclusion would also help the cause.

Inclusion efforts are already in 2019. Ann Kelleher, Ph.D., senior VP and general manager of Intel’s technology and manufacturing group is delivering the opening keynote at SEMI’s Industry Strategy Symposium 2019 (ISS 2019), and three speakers out of 32 (including panelists) are women. This year’s Confab has two invited women speakers (so far), out of 13, which is up by one from last year. (Hey, it’s a start!).

SemiSisters Project

The women are out there. They may not all be in the C-suite (yet), but that doesn’t mean they don’t have something to contribute to the conversation. That’s why we started the SemiSister’s blog, to turn the spotlight not just the women in leadership, but all women who have chosen a career path in the semiconductor industry.

The project kicked off with three SemiSister Success Stories. In 2019, look for more of these stories from the trenches, as well as blogs on related topics D&I topics such as the benefits of mentor programs, how to attract more young people to the industry, and more. Additionally, we’ll be expanding the SemiSisters blog to a full channel on 3D InCites, The goal is to provide a neutral platform that will allow different organizations a place to collaborate and achieve a common goal: solve gender and diversity issues for the semiconductor industry. If you’re interested in participating in this project through sponsorship and editorial contribution, contact me at Francoise@3DInCites.com. FvT