What can be done to increase diversity in STEM fields?
We increase diversity in STEM when a student or a young professional can see others modeling her path forward, when she can see an industry and thought leaders who look like her and who share her experience. Diversity requires mentorship and sponsorship in our communities, to both build and maintain pipelines. We increase diversity when we dismantle early barriers—real or perceived—for the next generation.
That said, too often law firms and corporations focus on entry and hiring when diversity in STEM thrives on acceptance, respect, and support AFTER the hiring decision. We must demand better of our allies, engage in owning and shaping workplace culture and building inclusivity.
What barriers do you see to closing the gender gap in STEM?
In my experience, we continue to expect more from women than men – in emotional intelligence, in professional and organizational “stewardship” and “citizenship,” and in maintaining homes and personal lives. Until we expect the same from women and men, professional success and leadership will necessarily require more from women.
I have great faith in young women and girls to know their power, capabilities, and worth. Still, finding equity in professional settings often eludes us. Organizations know how to combat overt and easily identified sexism and harassment, but they struggle to address more subtle microaggressions and misogyny. Fighting for respect and equity has only become more difficult. As a first step in removing the barriers that remain, we must acknowledge that said barriers have become more difficult to identify and address.
Where do you see women in STEM in five years?
Pessimistically, undervalued. Optimistically, holding more and more leadership roles. Women comprise half of the population yet achieving representation in STEM reflective of that continues to elude us. Realistically, five years is not enough time to close that gap, but each day women in STEM have the opportunity to influence a student or a young professional, to support or promote a colleague, and to add to our pipeline of practitioners. Now, if men in STEM also understood the importance of these acts, maybe five years’ time would be enough to accomplish visible change.