Female STEM Role Models—Critical, but Scarce
Powerful female STEM role models are critically important, but scarce. I have worked in supply chain most of my career, apart from a developmental commercial role. I have had the pleasure of working in multiple locations in the United States, as well as spending six years in Europe. In all those years, I encountered very few C-suite STEM women, working in the Fortune 500.The glass ceiling for women in supply chain is very real.
This presents a real challenge in developing a pipeline of future leaders. Navigating the layers of science, engineering, technology, and mathematics is filled with complexities not common to other functions. New-hire positions in manufacturing and engineering can require extended periods of solo travel and rotating shift work. Nearly all the interfaces (whether in the United States or abroad) are dominated by men. When you come across another female leader who is not in supply chain, the interests and perspectives will be different based on her background and experience. Of course, we always manage to forge productive relationships.
However, this shortage of women leaders in STEM may influence us to consider other options. This creates coping mechanisms for women that sometimes involve leaving STEM for more rewarding opportunities. The few trailblazers that exist have a long list of women competing for their time, which can become exhausting. Women question the value of their work, when it is not producing favorable results. In the world of innovation and digitization, there are renewed efforts to encourage women to pursue careers in STEM. I applaud the effort, but there is more to do. This is a journey, and we must maintain the pipeline; progress the middle; and deliver the “C” suite.
Women in STEM are in great demand and the diversity of career choice is much broader than before. We need role models who can help our next generation navigate those options. They need to know that it is not necessary to leave this field to be successful. They need to know that they can be successful in more than one industry. Finally, STEM women need to know that their voices matter. They will have opportunities to earn a seat from shift team rooms to board rooms, and everything in between!