What can be done to increase diversity in STEM fields?

As so many girls are opting out of more advanced STEM courses as early as high school, it’s critical to adjust outreach to education because the educators can’t be totally responsible for it. Girls and young women should be given opportunities in technology-adjacent careers, including those that are not on a keyboard and don’t need a coding background, such as project management and business analyst positions. Hiring practices need to reflect that tech is going to evolve to a point where women and generally more diverse people will need to be involved as the world changes and tech becomes increasingly permeated in our daily lives.

What barriers do you see to closing the gender gap in STEM?

It comes back to education as well as companies taking a chance on candidates that aren’t the most technical or who lack tech backgrounds. Sometimes the skills a person has outside of STEM could make them that much better in a technology career. People with deep analytical and process-driven mindsets could lead very bright tech careers. Women especially need to realize how they can fit in the mold of tech based on how their mind works and their skills. Companies also need to actively look beyond their conventional prerequisites.

When someone is new to a field and doesn’t come with the expected skill set, it doesn’t mean they can’t learn and be hands-on in their careers. There are people that we wouldn’t normally associate with tech that end up being excellent in the field. For example, I hired an F-18 pilot while I worked at a technology portfolio management group. The job required a lot of financial analysis, really RD mapping. You need excellent communication and technical abilities to do that, so we took a chance, and the employee was terrific.

Where do you see women in STEM in five years?

I see women becoming more deeply immersed across the board in all the various roles available. I see the balance starting to shift from a leadership perspective to becoming more at parity with men. I went through a lot of times where I was the only woman in the room and now I can see that five years later I am going to have a lot of company!