Increasing Diversity in STEM
During this pandemic, we learned the importance of science in helping to save lives. I am hopeful that this will bring about greater engagement in academic and corporate settings to create a path for women from diverse backgrounds in the scientific community. Corporations and academia must work to diversify board representation, leverage external panels, and offer internship programs that excite and inspire tomorrow’s leaders and innovators.
STEM pioneer Katalin Karikó, believed that her decades of mRNA research could be used for something truly groundbreaking. That work has been critical to the development of successful COVID-19 vaccines. Corporations need to partner with and support educators, researchers, and sociopolitical organizations to support initiatives designed to diversify STEM representation.
Barriers to Closing the STEM Gender Gap
The largest barrier is the underrepresentation of women. I currently serve on a nonprofit industry board for a food incubator whose mission is to add diverse board members and engage with industry leaders from different cultures and backgrounds. I am inspired to serve in this role and share my experiences with others. Taking the time to seek out and encourage talented women, and create an environment that allows for individuals to stretch themselves needs to be paramount. Many times, I see the industry take the path of least resistance, and use the same experts repeatedly for speaking engagements. We are also seeing more vocal advocacy from female leaders who are taking a stand by not participating in industry events that do not highlight diverse backgrounds, cultures, and genders.
Women in STEM 5 Years down the Road
The COVID-19 pandemic caused many women to leave the workforce. I see this as setting us back in the short term. The good news is that, also because of the pandemic, new ways of working that many corporations have adopted will allow women greater flexibility so that, when they return to work, they will not have to choose work/life balance over their aspirations and career development.
Women have found their voice as essential to their professional and personal growth. Academia and corporations are responding as personal and group advocacy increases. I see women as a driving force in all aspects of STEM and STEAM in five years. We all need to fearlessly advocate, mentor, and support movements that help us succeed in this industry.