What can be done to increase diversity in STEM fields?

Increasing diversity in STEM starts by increasing early educational (e.g., K-12) STEM programs. This early education and exposure would help to ensure that all students have access to a STEM education and mentors who can further guide and cultivate their STEM aspirations. These programs should focus not only on STEM education, but also provide access to diverse mentors in various STEM fields. Diverse mentorship can strengthen diverse students’ interests and provide them with a sense of belonging. Under-resourced communities should consider private-public partnerships to jump start these programs.

How is the world changing with respect to STEM?

While we have a long way to go, we are seeing small gains in women pursuing STEM majors in undergraduate education. This reflects both an increase in STEM programs for girls and young women in early education, as well as a small breakdown in some of the cultural stereotypes regarding the suitability of STEM careers for men versus women. While this is a positive step, it remains to be seen how or if this will translate to an increase in the number of women pursuing careers in STEM and their promotion to leadership roles.

Describe your experiences as a woman in a STEM career. What else would you like our readers to know about being a woman in a STEM career in 2023?

I have been incredibly fortunate throughout my education and career to have had extremely supportive female and male mentors in STEM who were the true definition of the word. Mentors were the key to both my persistence in STEM and my success. Each of my mentors provided guidance, not only in connection with the current stage of my career but by pushing me to the next step. I have always viewed my personal career as a product of those who helped get me to where I am today. This is why it is imperative for me, at this stage in my career, to pay that forward and be a mentor for young women and girls in STEM.

While being a woman in STEM, even in 2023, has its challenges, it is incredibly rewarding and, dare I say, fun. We are in a time where discoveries and technical advances are happening at an incredibly rapid pace, which makes being a biotechnology patent attorney particularly exciting. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a reinvigorated interest in infectious disease research, making this STEM field particularly interesting. We are also in a time where mentorship has truly gone global allowing women in different STEM fields to connect, both in person and virtually, in a meaningful way.