Women in stem - today and tomorrow
How Alysia Kennedy, CFA is optimizing her new reality of working from home by sharing her love of STEM with her child.
As a mom and a consultant, I am facing a new reality of working from home. Having a love for STEM myself, I see this as an opportunity to engage my child in STEM-related activities to spark her interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Ultimately, she will decide what her future looks like, but in the meantime, we can have fun and develop strong problem-solving skills and higher-level thinking she can apply in any career.
I was lucky when I realized early on that I wanted to pursue my interest in STEM. I enrolled at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science in Technology, and I later attended the University of Virginia, where I graduated with a B.S. in Finance, Information Technology and International Business. I was happy to participate in this Q & A about women in STEM.
- Why do we see fewer women in leadership roles in STEM fields?
While the glass ceiling applies in all fields, it is more noticeable in STEM because there are not as many women entering the field. This leads to a smaller percentage reaching leadership roles than you might see in other female popular industries. When I worked in the engineering department of a large technology firm, this was evident. My department had a 9:1 ratio of males to females.
At Actualize Consulting, women are encouraged to take active roles in whatever they want to pursue. The company supports the growth of the consultants and team members and is willing to help train them in where they want to go. There are several women in leadership roles at Actualize; the Chief Operating Officer, Kerry Wekelo, as well as three out of the five directors are women.
- Is there hope? Will the leaders and innovators of tomorrow look different than who we see today?
The answer to the first question is I think so, but I think it will take time. We need the cycle of a generation of women entering the field and then another generation for women to advance into leadership roles. Breaking away from gender stereotypes starts at home – parents have the power to overcome the stereotypes and introduce their daughters to STEM. Whether it is starting at a young age by exposing them to STEM toys such as the Picasso tiles (the colored magnetic tiles) or wooden blocks, Legos, a butterfly garden, and paleontology or geology set. You can take them to a local science museum and most cities have a children’s museum where the kids can interact with STEM exhibits as well. We have the power to make a difference for the younger generation of women. I know that I want all the opportunities in the world for my daughter and I would think all parents would want that for their child, whether a daughter or a son.
- If we are in the midst of a shift, what’s driving it ... is it women, or is it society?
I feel that we are at the beginning stages of a shift and I believe the responsibility falls on us as women. As Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” History has taught us that women have to be the drivers of the change we want to see. There’s been more empowerment of women in recent years, and I’m hoping we can leverage that momentum and join forces to drive this change as a group. At a minimum, every woman can contribute by supporting and encouraging other women in the field.
On an individual level, I think the pursuit of a STEM career also needs to be self-driven. A significant advantage that the newer generations have is unprecedented access to information. Thanks to the age of the internet, we have equal access to information on opportunities, fields of study, and types of careers that will hopefully assist with the shift to more women in leadership as well.
- Why is it important to cultivate a personal/professional brand?
To help advance your career and cultivate a professional brand, you need to have an online presence. Even if you do not use social media, you should at a minimum, have a LinkedIn account. Let your profile reflect your professionalism. Follow industry leaders and companies. You can publish and like pertinent articles and current industry topics that reflect where you want to be. You can further establish your online presence by writing articles and hosting industry webinars.
Actualize Consulting works with you to build your professional and personal brand. The company encourages its consultants to seek training, pursue knowledge, and to give back to the industry as a thought leader through written articles, webinars, and by leading events.
- What advice do you have for young women early in their careers, that can help them claim their seat at the table?
Women early in their careers should be open to trying different opportunities, roles, and types of projects, even if it means asking for them. Networking and establishing a female mentor relationship are invaluable. Find a mentor, especially if you are working at a larger firm so that you do not get lost in the crowd. I know for a fact that some companies have inhouse programs that support women, which provides opportunities to meet other women in the company and grow your network. Actualize Consulting includes the question of mentorship in our goal assessments, asking if you would like to be mentored or mentor another individual.
For those without access to such formal programs, I recommend they seek out mentors on their own. Your mentor does not have to be specific to your industry. The drivers behind successful women, their behavior, mindset, and steps of action will have the same theme regardless of the industry. You can learn from women both in and out of your chosen industry. Don’t feel like you have to limit yourself.
Your child’s opportunities to excel in STEM are unlimited. You can increase their exposure by introducing them to STEM through toys. Here are a few you might enjoy.
Cubetto – a Montessori-approved wooden robot coding toy for children powered by a tangible programming language made of colorful blocks. Children guide Cubetto through a series of maps and stories, and learn the basics of computer programming and STEM skills without the use of a screen. http://primotoys.com/
Qubits® - an easy to assemble, construction toy designed by an architect to snap together toy that teaches about modular design and geometric shapes. https://qubitstoy.com/
Wikki Stix - 108 feet of Wikki Stix in nine colors. The STEM Pak also includes a four panel step-by-step illustration of how to make the DNA Double Helix. https://www.wikkistix.com/product/stem-pak/
Q ball - With numbers 1-10 on the ball, Q ball offers fun math games for all ages. https://qballextreme.com/games-for-kids/
As Senior Manager in the Treasury and Capital Markets practice at Actualize Consulting, I enjoy designing and implementing technology solutions to solve complex business problems. If you have any questions about the implementation process for your Treasury department, feel free to contact me.
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