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Women in STEM: You can be anything and do everything

The STEM field is growing, creating tremendous opportunity for well-trained applicants. While STEM has traditionally been a male-dominated field, cultivating interest at the undergraduate level can help draw in more women who may have the necessary skills but have never considered STEM as a career path. In TBR’s monthly series Women in STEM, we discuss how female leaders have successfully pursued careers in STEM and are encouraging more female representation by passing on the lessons they’ve learned to other women who are pursuing this path.

Stephanie Long headshot

Hi. I am Stephanie Long, a senior analyst at TBR and the author of this blog series. I, like many other women in traditionally male-dominated fields, took a nontraditional path to my current job. I earned a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in secondary education from the University of New Hampshire, and I am a certified public school teacher for social studies in grades 5 through 12.

Though I am not currently working in a traditional school system, my passion for educating the future workforce has not slowed — but how I do that has changed. Through my job as a senior analyst, I collaborate with many brilliant men and women, in both mature and emerging markets within the data center space. As I track and notice trends in the strategies and performance of these businesses, I also notice a trend among the people I talk to: They are mostly male.

Girls can do anything boys can do despite societal pressures

I have been asked why I am championing women in STEM through my 2021 blog series — and why now, in 2021. There have been many recent societal changes that have sparked my interest in this endeavor, from the #MeToo movement to the election of the first female vice president of the United States. The reality is that our culture still promotes the falsehood that men are smarter — and as the mother of two toddlers, a daughter and a son, it irks me.

But the final push I needed to actually do something about it came in 2020 at Christmastime. My kids received playful T-shirts as a gift from a relative: My daughter’s read, “Fabulous Like Mommy,” while my son’s read, “Genius Like Dad.” Now, my husband is a biochemist, so yes, he is very smart — but why is clothing for toddlers promoting the idea that a mother’s most important quality is being fabulous? I may not be as intelligent as my biochemist husband, but there is certainly a lot more to me than being fabulous — I have many more important and impactful qualities. And while I wouldn’t call myself a genius, my mind is certainly a more appealing attribute than my fabulousness.

Words have power

The purchaser of these T-shirts simply did what most shoppers do: She saw the two versions, one for boys and one for girls, and inadvertently sent my daughter a message that she is “less than” simply because of her biologically assigned gender. How are these two traits even on the same spectrum, and why are they what society has deemed stereotypically feminine and stereotypically masculine? This is a fundamental issue that we as parents must address. We must teach our daughters that they are smart, too, and that their worth is more than skin deep. Their mind is a valuable asset that will last far longer than their looks.

As a child, I was hammered with these same gender stereotypes. I had big dreams as a little girl. I wanted to be a lawyer and later a scientist. My well-intentioned parents kept sending me the message throughout my youth that I could be anything I wanted to be but that being a lawyer or a scientist wasn’t conducive to being a good mother. (I now know that your job does not determine whether or not you are a good parent — your actions do). By the time I hit middle school, that message was cemented in my mind and I spent more time shopping with my friends at the mall to impress boys than I did on my homework.

I could be anything I wanted to be, but I couldn’t be everything I wanted to be, and therefore something had to give. For me, there was great pressure to forgo a high-brain-power career and settle for something where the hours allowed me to be home more with my future kids, and so I chose the path of a public school teacher. I pursued that path for many years, until a series of very fortunate events and a few very influential men who believed in me showed me that I could do it all and that, no, my kids wouldn’t suffer. I can work in a field that requires a lot of brain power AND be a good parent. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Practice what you preach

This all connects if you have followed me this far to TBR’s Women in STEM blog. The advice I am collecting from these female champions in STEM careers is extremely important and applicable — and it needs to be embraced before the current generation of children are old enough to know the difference. And we as their parents need to fight against the messages society continues to hammer our daughters and sons with.

But it goes even further than this. We as parents need to practice what we preach or our children will not believe us. Actions speak louder than words. But we know through research that in middle school peer influence begins to matter more than parent influence, and this influence disparity only grows with our kids through high school. So, I alone as their mother can only do so much. Society needs to support the change from within, through messaging, advice and mentorship, to uplift all women and remind us, regardless of age, that we are as capable as our male counterparts — in our careers, in our homes and in life.

Women in STEM: Atos’ Isabelle Warnier on overcoming the biggest roadblock

STEM fields are growing, creating tremendous opportunity for well-trained applicants. While these areas of study have traditionally been male-dominated, cultivating interest at the undergraduate level can help draw in more women who may have the necessary skills but have never considered STEM as a career path. In TBR’s monthly series Women in STEM, we discuss how female leaders have successfully pursued careers in STEM and are encouraging more female representation by passing on the lessons they have learned to other women who are pursuing this path.

Meet Isabelle Warnier, head of Scaler, the Accelerator, and head of Industry Analyst Relations at Atos

Isabelle Warnier, head of Scaler, the Accelerator, and head of Industry Analyst Relations at Atos

Isabelle Warnier currently serves as vice president and head of startup and SME program Scaler, The Atos Accelerator, which focuses on industries, security and decarbonization. The program combines Atos’ expertise with the knowledge of industry-focused startups to coinnovate industry-specific digital solutions.

Warnier holds a master’s degree in marketing communications and brand management from CELSA Paris-Sorbonne.

Trust and empowerment from leaders can break down barriers

Many young women find excitement in STEM fields when in school but convince themselves that they should not or could not make a career out of it. “I was so embarrassed not to be an engineer working with scientists and experts, as a woman in a man’s world and not from a prestigious engineering school,” said Warnier. In January’s Women in STEM, IBM’s Jennifer Glick spoke to imposter syndrome — when one doubts one’s abilities and knowledge — among women in STEM, and Warnier echoes this, even going as far as to call it “classic among women” in the field. However, Warnier is quick to suggest ways to overcome this: “Start early convincing girls that STEM jobs are super exciting and that if you want to make something big for the world we live in, this is a wonderful place to be.”

Along Warnier’s successful and ongoing STEM journey, a common thread of leaders who trusted her abilities and empowered her to believe in herself enabled her to overcome imposter syndrome and to enact the changes she felt were needed to make positive moves in her roles in the field. Warnier emphasizes the value of mentors, either male or female, along the journey to challenge you and guide you toward success.

Men see the benefits of a diverse workforce too

Warnier, a 20-plus-year veteran of various jobs in STEM, notes, “An increasing number of men also work to create more opportunities for women, because as they work with more diverse teams, they see the benefits.” We, as women, have a lot of insights to bring to the table in STEM fields if we challenge ourselves to step outside of our comfort zones and share them.

Just go for it

STEM fields are a segment of the larger working world where there are many unknowns waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s Thomas Edison’s accidental discovery of electricity or Newton’s sudden insight about gravity while sitting under an apple tree, great thinkers in history have made breakthrough discoveries because they were willing to go for it.  When asked what advice Warnier would give a young woman considering starting a career in STEM, she said, “I would definitely say, go for it! Jump into this limitless ocean. It is refreshing, nurturing, and you will find out that you can either swim, dive or sail on mainstream or unknown routes.”

Be yourself

Perhaps the most important piece of advice that women often forget is, “Do not mimic what you think is expected from you but develop what is singular and unique in yourself,” says Warnier. Every person has unique talents and strengths they can bring to their career. Do no lose sight of what makes you you. Warnier adds, “Evidence is overwhelming from corporate boardrooms to startups: Where women have more power, organizations are more successful, [and] economies where women participate more are more successful.” We as women need to embrace our strengths when pursuing goals both in and outside of our comfort zones so we can effect positive change using our special gifts and skills, especially in STEM fields.

Women in STEM: EY’s Kris Lovejoy on the importance of mentorship

The STEM field is growing, creating tremendous opportunity for well-trained applicants. While STEM has traditionally been a male-dominated field, cultivating interest at the undergraduate level can help draw in more women who may have the necessary skills but have never considered STEM as a career path. In TBR’s monthly series Women in STEM, we discuss how female leaders have successfully pursued careers in STEM and are encouraging more female representation by passing on the lessons they have learned to other women who are pursuing this path.

Meet Kris Lovejoy, global consulting cybersecurity leader at EY

Kris Lovejoy took a nontraditional path to her current position as a cybersecurity leader and advocate of quantum developments at EY. Prior to working at EY, Lovejoy worked in IBM’s cybersecurity business for seven years and was CEO of BluVector, an AI-powered security automation firm, prior to its acquisition by Comcast in 2019.

Lovejoy holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Lafayette College in Easton, Penn., but opportunities that arose at the beginning of her career led her to shift her focus to a career in STEM.

Inspiration can be found where you may not expect it

Lovejoy emphasizes the importance of those we entrust with our children during their formative years. “The importance of educators can’t be underestimated,” Lovejoy says. She notes that one of the most influential people in her decision to enter the STEM field was her high school French language teacher, Donna Matles, who “gave me the courage to recognize my own value during some very dark days.”

Don’t let the loneliness of male-dominated fields intimidate you

As a woman with more than two decades of experience in the male-dominated cybersecurity field, Lovejoy says, “Finding the courage to continue where one feels very alone has not been easy, but I and my colleagues in cybersecurity are optimistic that we’re bringing diversity to the field.” It is an unfortunate reality that women with vocal opinions are often labeled as difficult. “Many women, in my experience, don’t feel comfortable speaking out,” says Lovejoy. “Instead, we talk about concerns within trusted circles.”

Often, one of the biggest roadblocks to personal progress is ourselves. In Lovejoy’s opinion, a key way to overcome this roadblock is to “learn how to empathize with others, including those who perpetuate stereotypes. It’s a matter of recognizing that the people you’re working with are human beings, and you can help them see the world through a different lens.” In short: Changing the landscape of STEM requires not being afraid to speak up and ask questions when something does not seem right.

Innovation benefits from diversity

Perhaps the most impactful piece of advice from Lovejoy: “Innovation benefits hugely from diversity.” STEM fields are some of the most innovative fields, yet remain male-dominated. Lovejoy states, “Based on various major tech companies’ diversity reports, female employees make up between 27% and 47% of the workforce, with the percentage dropping much lower when it comes to actual tech jobs, even though women make up more than half of the U.S.’ professional workforce.”

“We must work harder to raise the status of women technologists and promote female role models if we are to attract more women to the industry,” says Lovejoy. In 2018 EY launched EY Women in Technology (WiT) to promote a steady increase in female leaders in technology. “WiT is the articulation and demonstration of EY’s commitment to achieving a greater level of gender equality in a technology-enabled world,” says Lovejoy. Because the gender disparity in STEM fields is a global issue, EY’s global scale, coupled with the efforts of the WiT movement, positions the company well to make an impactful difference. EY is also a member of the Global Innovation Coalition for Change (GICC), a UN Women initiative that brings together private sector companies, academic institutions and nonprofit organizations to improve women’s access to and participation in STEM education.

STEM disparity goes beyond gender

From an economic standpoint, access to STEM opportunities decreases in line with a student’s socioeconomic status. STEM fields often require access to technical tools or technologies to adequately learn the basic skills. Lovejoy highlights the EY STEM Tribe Platform, which was created in collaboration with Tribal Planet to engage people globally on social impact priorities. This platform enables students worldwide to engage in STEM learning activities on their mobile device, in an entertaining and game-like manner, with modules on everything from climate change and space exploration to 3D printing and AI. “The global platform was previously piloted in India to 6,000 girls, and then EY launched this pilot in two U.S. cities, Seattle and Atlanta,” Lovejoy explains.

Look to and learn from the pockets of success

While there is still a long way to go in reducing access barriers to STEM resources and increasing the number of women in STEM fields, there have been successes we can celebrate and learn from. For example, Lovejoy states that EY’s cybersecurity team in Saudi Arabia is made up of 46% women. While still technically the minority, this is a massive and surprising win in a region where it is often believed that women are given very little opportunity to thrive.

As we look to these successes and try and replicate them on a global scale, Lovejoy leaves us with one final piece of advice, “Find people that you work with — male or female, doesn’t matter — people willing to speak on your behalf and coach you when you need it.”

Women in STEM: IBM’s Jennifer Glick on navigating the quantum career path

The STEM field is growing, creating tremendous opportunity for well-trained applicants. While STEM has traditionally been a male-dominated field, cultivating interest at the undergraduate level can help draw in more women who may have the necessary skills but have never considered STEM as a career path. In TBR’s monthly series Women in STEM, we discuss how female leaders have successfully pursued careers in STEM and are encouraging more female representation by passing on the lessons they’ve learned to other women who are pursuing this path.

Meet Jennifer Glick, a quantum computing applications researcher at IBM

Jennifer Glick received her doctorate in physics in 2017 for her work on the quantum information theory of measurement. In 2020 Glick was selected as one of MIT Technology Review’s 35 Innovators Under 35 for her work in quantum computing.

Jennifer Glick, IBM
Jennifer Glick, IBM Quantum Computing Applications Researcher

In her current role at IBM, Glick identifies promising quantum applications and develops proofs of concepts that drive advancements in quantum algorithms and methods. This work is essential to moving quantum computing from labs to the real world. In our recent discussion with Glick, she spoke of viewing college with an outcome mindset and boosting learning through free online resources as well as navigating the science path to a quantum career.

Encourage women to pursue STEM careers by being available to answer questions

Navigating the transition from academia to the corporate world can be difficult as universities do not always provide significant scaffolding during students’ academic career. For the highly specialized STEM fields, this is particularly true. But Glick recommends embracing this perceived roadblock with a growth mindset. “It turns out, [a growth mindset] is a great antidote to the impostor syndrome. Strategically seek out new experiences, ideas and challenges that get you out of your comfort zone,” says Glick. “It’s surprising how much you can learn just by observing the people around you.”

Glick adds that leaders in STEM fields can encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM by helping foster their initial interest and supporting them as that interest flourishes. Glick practices what she preaches, having mentored high school, undergraduate and graduate students while working toward her Ph.D.

View college with an outcome mindset, and then build backward with coursework

Many companies take a solutions outcome approach to their technology investments. Customers seek a particular outcome, and vendors then build architectures behind the scenes to enable that outcome. The customer does not necessarily know or care what underlying infrastructure they obtain as long as the desired outcome is achieved.

Education and how it relates to career choice can be thought of in a similar way. We compartmentalize education as something you complete before you start a career, but the reality is that lifelong learners are more likely to have successful careers. Glick’s advice to women considering a career in quantum computing is, “Study a combination of quantum physics, computer science and applied mathematics. A Ph.D. in physics is not strictly a prerequisite for working in quantum computing.”

Retool your existing skills via free online resources

For many, the idea of going back to college for additional degree work is unattainable. For those without existing degrees in quantum-related areas, Glick recommends leveraging free online resources to learn as much as you can on your subject of interest. As the field of quantum computing matures and expands, many related jobs in the industry are emerging, including around software engineering, sales, marketing and design. A variety of skills are necessary for the field of quantum computing to have long-term success. “Pay attention to key thought leaders in quantum computing — they can offer insight into where the field might be headed in the years to come,” says Glick.

Additionally, Glick recommends finding internships within the industry. Well-established STEM fields frequently offer internships to help apprentice young people seeking to work in fields with skills shortages. As careers in STEM become more technical, undergraduate degrees lay the foundational knowledge but on-the-job-training is the most valuable way to obtain the specialized skills necessary to succeed in STEM. A longstanding challenge with internship access has been physical location. However, COVID-19, for all of the hardships it has created, has connected the world digitally more than ever before. Young people in rural locations can now access internships and training at major metropolitan corporations virtually, which removes this physical location roadblock.

Don’t be daunted by the science: Quantum is a growing field with nonscientific opportunities as well

Perhaps Glick’s most important piece of advice is the reminder that emerging and complex scientific technologies are accessible. “Start using quantum computers,” says Glick. “Contribute to open-source software, try the circuit composer on the IBM Quantum Experience, use Qiskit to design and test quantum circuits and algorithms.” IBM has provided ways for people interested in a career in quantum computing, or simply interested in the technology as a hobby, to access it and not only learn from the technology but also eventually teach others. Leveraging online resources and courses, such as the Qiskit Textbook and Qiskit Global Summer School, in conjunction with playing around with IBM’s accessible quantum assets are ways to become smarter around a STEM technology.