Women in STEM, Jaz Rabadia

Jaz Rabadia is Energy Manager at Debenhams Plc, a leading international multichannel retailer operating in over 160 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Jaz was the youngest person in the UK to be awarded Chartered Energy Manager status from the Energy Institute. Through her role as a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Ambassador, she is keen to raise the awareness of energy and engineering management careers with students, to create a pipeline of future energy professionals.

Tell us about your journey to where you are today
Like most students, I had no idea of what I wanted to do when I ‘grew up’. I chose engineering mainly because I wanted to keep my career options open and it seemed to tie in quite nicely with my A-levels in maths, design technology, chemistry and sports science. 
I knew a degree in engineering would impress future employers and that there was a real shortage of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics) skills in the UK. I read up about engineering and realised how important it is and how it helps better the lives of people all around the world. I knew then that by studying engineering, I could also help to make a difference.

Whilst studying for my degree at City University London, I worked part time as a checkout assistant in my local Sainsbury’s store. In the second year of my degree I took additional modules in Energy Management and Renewable Energy and it was then that I saw how engineering could be applied to make a difference for the worlds future energy demands. When it was time to start writing my dissertation rather than take on the project title I was given (‘’A thermodynamic analysis of the combustion engine’’), I decided to create my own project (‘’The energy utilisation and management at Sainsbury’s’’). It seemed perfect, applying my engineering principles to a real life challenge; energy management in the workplace – and above all I could do my dissertation during paid working hours!

Once complete, I presented my study and its finding to Sainsbury’s Head of Energy who saw just how passionate I was; he even included a summary of my project in Sainsbury’s Corporate Responsibility Report. I maintained contact with him and soon after graduating, I received a call from him – offering me a job! It really was that simple and I’ve never looked back since. 

I never imagined that my part time job as a Sainsbury’s checkout assistant would flourish into the role of Group Energy Manager, which ultimately made me responsible for all the electricity and gas used across the 1,000 store portfolio, managing the company’s second biggest controllable cost line; A job that makes environmental and commercial sense.

More Recently I joined Debenhams as Energy Manager. I’m responsible for managing the electricity used to light the stores, the gas used to heat them, and the water used for cleaning and hygiene in stores. Across all the stores, depots and offices in the UK, Debenhams spend over £35million per year on energy and water bills. This is one of their biggest costs and has a big impact on the environment. It’s another demanding, but rewarding job where I get to apply my communication, creativity and engineering skills. 

How do you think your experiences as a woman in STEM have made you who you are today?

Being a woman in STEM has made me an adaptable individual. The beauty of what I do is that every day presents a new and different challenge. This is helped me in my professional and personal life and I now have a pragmatic approach to challenges. Working in STEM has helped me to become confident in what I know, and not be afraid of what I don’t know. 

What have the highlights been in your career as a woman in STEM?

By far the biggest highlight in my career was achieving Chartered Energy Manager recognition from the Energy Institute. I am the youngest to be awarded this in UK. It’s given me a huge amount of confidence and it’s the stamp of approval from my Institution of all that I have achieved. Working in energy management is really rewarding. You can see almost instantly the effect of your work through a decrease in energy usage, lower energy bills and a minimised impact on the environment. 

What do you feel you gain from being a STEM ambassador?

To address the shortage of energy and engineering professionals coming through the pipeline, I have volunteered as a STEM Ambassador. This gives me the opportunity to go to schools, colleges and universities to talk about my career journey and expand on some of the challenges I have faced as a young woman in engineering. By dispelling some of the myths around what an engineer does and looks like, I inspire more students to consider careers in engineering. It also helps me to develop my leadership and presentation skills, I like to get creative and bring energy and engineering to life for the students. 

Have any women influenced you and your career?

I’ve been fortunate to have many women (and men) champion my career progression. This has been in the form of colleagues, friends and family. I’ve always been encouraged to pursue a career of my choice by my parents and when I chose engineering they were delighted. As part of my continued professional development I’ve had a female coach, Helen Sachdev who has been invaluable in helping me develop the leadership behaviours required for me to progress in my career. Focussing on both my professional environment and my personal circumstances, she has helped me to understand how to apply my beliefs and values to achieve my goals. She is a fantastic sounding board and always comes up with a unique perspective and great ideas to overcome challenges. It’s really important for women to reach out to each other and share their experience and wisdom. 

What are the main issues you face as a women in STEM?

As a female in energy/engineering, I often find that I am the only woman in the room. In the earlier stages of my career I saw this as a barrier, being the only woman in a room full of men can be quite intimidating. But as I gained confidence in my abilities, I saw this difference as a huge benefit. I had different ideas, approaches and ways of working that I could bring to the table. I realised that it was me that doubted my abilities, not everyone else in the room! 

What advice would you give to female STEM graduates?

Statistics show that those that study STEM degrees don’t always go on to pursue STEM careers, which is a real shame. The opportunities in STEM are vast. My advice to STEM graduates would be to explore the different careers that you can go into. Ask questions of those already in the industry, read case studies of those that have been on the journey. Be confident in your abilities and the rest will fall into place. 

What one word would you use to describe yourself?

Hungry ! ( usually for food, but also for knowledge)


The neuroscience of objectification.

Source: Google Images

In advertising, one of the most common selling techniques is to use the sexualisation of women, where women are portrayed as sex objects. Psychologically, this has contributed to a lot of the attitudes in everyday life that negatively effect women, because advertising that treats women as sex objects leads to men objectifying women and women objectifying themselves, but does this also have any implications neurologically?

There have been many studies into how the sexualisation of women affects Theory of Mind. Theory of Mind is a psychological paradigm where you use your own mental state as a reference to work out the mental state of others (what they may be thinking or feeling or even how they may be thinking). This mechanism allows us to assess whether an entity is capable of feeling or thinking and plays a large part in how the sexualisation of women will cause the objectification of women.

(In the following studies, the researchers utilise a brain imaging technique called fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging, this technique allows the visualisation of which brain areas become active when doing certain tasks).

Grey et al used fMRI scanning to monitor the activity in the brains of men when viewing images of sexualised women from advertising. They specifically monitored the areas of the brain which activate when we view an entity that is capable of thought and planning action (the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate and temporal poles). They saw that when men viewed this images of women, that these areas of the brain became less active, meaning that they viewed these women as incapable of thinking or being in charge of their own lives.

They also presented images of women in a range of types of clothing, some more revealing than others. As the sexualisation of women increased the perception of capability to think independently decreased.

Other studies also support Grey’s findings. Fiske et al monitored the brain activity of straight males using an fMRI machine, and showed them images of clothed men and women, or scantily clad men and women. When they took a memory test afterwards, the men remembered the images of women wearing swimsuits and whose heads were digitally removed the best (aka, the images where the women were sexually objectified to the highest degree). The brain scans showed that when the men saw the images o the women’s bodies, the area of the brain related to taking action (the premotor cortex) becomes increasingly active. This same brain region becomes increasingly active before using a power tool to do DIY.

These findings were not male specific, even though men showed this attribute more consistently, when the same task was done on women this sort of brain activity can also be seen (but in a less intense way). This may indicate why many women are likely to self-objectify, viewing themselves as objects that don’t have their own voice and as a body that needs to altered for the satisfaction of others. This sort of behaviour in women is highly linked to women being less likely to vote and become politically active as well as being linked to higher rates of eating disorders/depression in women.

Fiske also asked these men to complete a questionnaire which would identify how sexist the  participants were. The men who scored the highest in questionnaire (the men who showed higher levels of outward sexism) showed very little activity in the prefrontal cortex when viewing the images, this indicates that these men were not viewing these women as fully human.

These findings show that it is possible that this kind f advertising has conditioned us to consider women as objects and led to a high proportion of men viewing women as in less control of their own lives and as a tool for sexual gratification. Thus, it is incredibly important to limit (or eradicate) the exposure to the sexualisation of women in advertising, as this will help to combat the normalisation of using women as sex objects and prevent this unconscious psychological mechanism from causing men to objectify women.

Source: genderads.com