Name: Sophie Morneau
Title: Director, Global Strategic Accounts, Automation Solutions at Emerson
Company: Emerson (Danbury, Conn.)
Degrees: M.S. in Mechanical Engineering, Université de Montréal (Montréal, Québec), B.S. in Materials Engineering, Université de Montréal, Associate Degree in Electronics, Montmorency College (Laval, Québec)
Talk about the culture at your company. What makes it inclusive or supportive of women? What do you enjoy about working there as an engineer?
Emerson has provided me with a challenging work environment and increasingly interesting learning and growth opportunities. For example, in September, I attended the company’s first Women’s Leadership Summitfor executives and rising leaders. This was a day-long immersion of leadership strategies for women taught by award-winning Georgetown Professor Hillary Sale and other Emerson executives and demonstrated to me Emerson’s commitment to the advancement of women to leadership roles.
Emerson is committed to creating a global workplace that encourages diversity and embraces inclusion. Emerson’s diversity and inclusion efforts seek to attract, develop and retain more women and minority employees as part of our overall workforce and at all levels of our management ranks. My own experiences and opportunities to grow my career are proof of this commitment.
Our CEO, David Farr, along with 450 CEOs of leading global companies, has pledged the company’s support for the “CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion” initiative. We are proud that our CEO feels strongly about this issue and recognizes that change starts with his leadership.
Emerson’s Women in STEM, is the first corporate-wide Employee Resource Group (ERG). I have been on the board of Emerson’s Women in STEM ERG since 2016. The group was initially created in 2013 by Emerson’s Diversity Council to help recruit and develop women engineers. The program now has active chapters in more than 40 countries worldwide.
Over time, its focus has evolved to encompass not only women in engineering, but in all STEM fields. Today, the mission of Emerson’s Women in STEM is aligned with the Society of Women Engineers’ (SWE) and focuses on recruiting, retaining, and advancing women in STEM careers.
Emerson’s Women in STEM mission is to attract, develop, and retain the best women in roles related to science, technology, engineering and math to enhance diversity of ideas and approaches which drive business growth and financial results. Emerson participates in targeted career fairs at leading universities and engineering societies including the annual Society of Women Engineers Conference, the world’s largest conference for women engineers.
We also want to retain talented women by providing networking, professional development, volunteer outreach and social opportunities, as well as a community where women and men can share experiences and insights on creating a diverse and inclusive culture.
We advance individually and as an organization by making Emerson a top-ranked company for all women by recognizing the accomplishments of Women in STEM and increasing the presence of women in significant roles company-wide. Each year, our regional Women in STEM groups nominate candidates for the SWE National awards. Emerson has won the SWE Gold Mission award and three Best Practice awards and most recently a Prism Award, which recognizes women who have charted their own path throughout their career, providing leadership in technology fields and professional organizations along the way. We are also proud of our Woman Engineermagazine ranking.
What first drew you to engineering? / When did you first know you wanted to be an engineer?
My interest in technology and engineering was motivated by my own curiosity about the world, how it worked and progressed. I was always drawn to ideas and things I perceived as challenging, cutting edge, competitive and futuristic. I wanted to be part of those things.
Were there any influential engineers (women or men) who helped shaped your decision to become an engineer? If so, who and why?
My father, who owned and managed a barber shop, played an important role in supporting my decision to become an engineer. When I was in my late teenage years, I mentioned to him my interest in engineering and soon thereafter, without consulting me, he organized a lunch to introduce me to four of his acquaintances—all engineers! Although I felt intimidated and shy at first, I learned quickly they wanted to see me succeed as they shared their work experiences and helped me better understand what engineering was all about.
I was deeply impressed as these men took the time to share their stories. These experiences punctuate the importance of having role models from a young age.
What barriers do women face in today’s engineering world, if any?
There are still difficulties that women must overcome in a highly technical or engineering environment. The most obvious one is the stereotypes that still exist such as what an engineer should look like. The stereotypes punctuate the importance of having more examples of women engineers in the workplace, educational settings, etc. will help broaden the pipeline and help to remove those stereotypes.
As you progress in your career, you can participate in meetings at higher management levels, where unfortunately, there are less women. One must stay focused and not be intimidated by being the only women in the room. I believe we must be more confident in our ability to successfully take on stretch assignments that will take us to the next level in our career.
Talk about your leadership skills. What lessons have you learned?
My career at Emerson started as a manager in application engineering where I was leading a laboratory team that supported our Branson technology in the Americas region. After a few years, I became director of the Acoustic Tooling Group, leading a team of 20 engineers working on applications, tooling and project engineering. I was later given the opportunity to work on a global basis, supporting customers designing products in one region and manufacturing overseas. More recently, I was promoted to Director of Global Strategic Accounts, where I am leading a team of global account managers that collaborate with customers to help co-create, envision, engineer, and implement the technically advanced solutions that they need.
What these great opportunities have taught me is to trust yourself. When you are young and just starting out, it is easy to give way to self-doubt. Everyone has doubts and the key to advancing is to find or build the courage and confidence to overcome them. By taking on leadership roles in increments, I have gained the confidence I needed to take on bigger challenges, whether technical, managerial, or personal. For example, I started in the Branson applications lab by managing three engineers. In time, it grew to six, then eight, then 10 and 20. My scope of responsibility started with the Americas and now my role is global.
Have you worked with younger engineers as a mentor, to help them in their career? Or describe any involvement in any STEM or STEAM programs for young people.
During my time as lead of the Acoustic Tooling Group, several engineers retired, creating the need to recruit new, young engineers, mostly right out of school with limited experience. Developing young talent can be demanding, but it is rewarding, too. There is nothing like seeing a new engineer grow in their profession and gain experience and confidence.
At Emerson, the efforts of managers are supported by employee mentorship programs. And, our Women in STEM ERG is preparing an initiative to sustain the professional development of women with a curriculum to support long-term personal and career growth.
In your opinion, what more can be done to promote greater participation of young women in engineering today?
The key to getting more women involved in STEM-related professions is to encourage young girls at a very young age. In 4th grade, 66% of girls indicate an interest in a science degree or career – but it’s down to 14% by the time they become teenagers.
And, there are things we can do today to make an impact. We can be women engineering role models to girls and young women. We can challenge stereotypes that tend to associate masculinity to technology and bring more problem-solving opportunities to girls in grades K-12. And, we all can be like the engineers I met at lunch decades ago, people who notice a child’s curiosity, take an interest in her success, and share stories that inspire her to realize a dream.
What career advice would you give to your younger self?
If I could go back I would tell myself to dream big because you can do this! I would also give myself some practical advice like 1) have a plan and focus; and 2) make sure to take on challenging assignments and learn new things.
And because working hard is not enough I would also encourage myself to network and self-advocate for my growth and look for a sponsor that can help with career progression.
[A condensed version of this sponsored profile appears in the November “Women in Engineering” issue of Design World.]