Her job begins with identifying everything related to the performance of the technology or the service, for example, how easy it should be to use, or fast it should be installed.
Goos-Adiyan's job is essential for NATO operations. All Allied forces rely on technology for communications, information sharing and more. Goos-Adiyan collaborates with industry providers to ensure the systems and services they are providing to NATO are designed in a way that maximizes their resilience and availability during operations, while minimizing their lifecycle costs.
Later in the process, she also works with industry providers to create the technical manuals, and training and support contracts for the new technology, so that all are prepared for its arrival from day one.
To mark the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we caught up with Goos-Adiyan to discuss her career, and passion for encouraging women and girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic (STEM) subjects.
Where did your passion for science come from?
My parents were primary school teachers and their top priority has always been the education of my brother and I. My passion for numbers and mathematics in general started from a young age, when my parents made up math games where I would make calculations from the top of my head as an evening playtime, instead of watching TV or playing with toys.
How did you get interested in working for NATO and the NCI Agency?
After graduation, I worked in the national defence industry for seven years until I found my way to the NCI Agency. It is a funny story, because it had never occurred to me that NATO was a place where an engineer like me could work without directly being part of the military. I was extremely excited with the prospect that I would contribute to the greatest Alliance in modern history, and I would progress in my career in the best possible place.
What are the barriers that prevent women and girls' access to STEM subjects?
One barrier is that many people don't realize that the possibilities in STEM careers are endless, and working environments are so much more varied in the modern STEM world. There are still good old stereotypes such as 'engineers work in a cold dark factory,' or 'scientists wear lab coats and lock themselves up in a lab,' while these are not the case anymore for most of the STEM professions.
Another barrier, which is maybe still the greatest obstacle, is the deliberate or unconscious bias preventing girls from having enough confidence to step outside of perceived gender roles. It all starts at home, during childhood, where it is parents' decision to follow gender stereotypes or challenge them.
Challenging them would mean removing the bias related to certain professions –
'scientists are men.' Challenging gender stereotypes would also require maximizing the use of gender- neutral language, avoiding telling boys they should not 'act like a girl', or 'even a girl got higher marks than you.' All of this subjectively affects both boys and girls.
Empowering girls to lead, to speak up and to take on more responsibilities will inevitably increase their confidence at school, and later in life. Some studies show that girls are a lot less willing to raise their hand to speak up at school compared to boys. This means that we are actually looking at a confidence issue rather than capability or willingness, and we are only now looking at girls with a good level of access to education and financial support.
When we add the other factors such as financial constraints in low-income families forced to make a selection between their male and female kids, or cultural and religious restrictions, then the number of girls that can actually complete high-level education drops, leaving aside the issue of directing them into STEM areas.
Why is the subject of having more women and girls in science important to you?
I have always been a strong advocate for fairness and equality, without limiting to gender equality. The gender aspect in science is particularly important to me because I am mindful of this as someone who has experienced it first-hand. The percentage of girls in my high school was less than 20 percent. In my engineering department, that percentage was even lower, at around 10 percent.
Although you get used to being one of the few females in a class full of male students, or being the only female in a technical meeting, after a while you realize that this is exactly one of the reasons why there is less female representation in STEM, and at the management level. Male dominance in numbers – and in some cases in attitude – consciously or unconsciously pushes women to step down or be less outspoken. Girls should know that they have a seat at the decision-making table and they have the right and ability to speak up.
I strongly believe that taking advantage of diversity, equity and inclusion makes any society or group stronger and more resilient. This includes the workplace.
As an experienced volunteer, what would be your advice on where and how to start?
We are going through challenging times, having minimal connection to the outside world and trying to find new routines at home. Many people could actually question the feasibility of volunteering while our interaction with the outside world is so restricted.
There is an unexpected advantage to all of this, which is online volunteering. There are many organizations, such as the United Nations, the Red Cross and more, looking for online volunteers to support their activities for disadvantaged groups including refugees, children living in countries with limited access to quality education or conflict zones. Potential activities include contributing to education programmes, providing online classes, drafting and proofreading legal and procedural documents, project management, translating documents, teaching kids how to do software development, supporting web development and providing psychological support.