How the STEM World Is Changing

Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but I never dreamed of being a surgeon or serving in a leadership role. I just didn’t see myself as someone who could fit that mold. I was small, soft spoken, and a girl. But I had amazing mentors and role models, who encouraged and inspired me. My mentors were both men and women, and from them I learned the confidence and courage to be unafraid.

A lot has changed since I started my journey in medicine. Now, there are increasing numbers of women training in surgery, though women as chairs and senior executives still lag significantly behind men. And though I do still walk into boardrooms where there are very few others who look like me, I realize, at least I’m at the table, and it’s my obligation to use my leadership role to advocate for opportunities and support for diversity in STEM.

Increasing Diversity in STEM

To increase diversity in STEM, it’s important to begin early, by inspiring young learners through representation, outreach, support, and mentoring. It’s also critical to continue to address the issues that often lead diverse and women STEM professionals to leave STEM careers.

Closing the STEM Gender Gap

Representation of women in senior positions is essential for closing the gender gap in STEM. Also important is having strong allies for gender equity and diversity in STEM, who use their leadership and power to advocate for policies that embrace and support diversity.

Moving STEM Women Forward

It is critically important that the pipeline for increasing women in STEM be supported, and that support continues throughout the career trajectory. There are many well-known factors that contribute to attrition for women in STEM, so it is important to put in place initiatives, such as family-friendly policies, tenure timeline flexibility, and representation on key decision-making bodies. These policies not only help women, they help all people move forward in STEM.

Women in STEM 5 Years Out

In five years, I would want to see women in STEM being the norm, not the aspiration. I would want to see representation in board rooms, on key decision-making committees, and serving in senior executive positions.

Some Words of Advice

Three things are key to being a woman leader in STEM in 2020: dream big; be resilient; and pay it forward.