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.