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Women's History Month 2023: Industry Leaders Share Thoughts and Opinions on STEM

Women in Tech 

Throughout history, women have been underrepresented in many fields, including STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). However, despite the obstacles they have faced, women have made significant contributions to STEM, and their achievements have changed the world.

Despite their successes, women are still underrepresented in many STEM fields. According to the National Science Foundation, women make up only 28% of the science and engineering workforce in the United States. This underrepresentation can be attributed to a variety of factors, including bias and discrimination, lack of access to educational opportunities, and social and cultural barriers.

To address these issues, there have been a variety of initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of women in STEM. For example, in the United States, there are now several organizations that provide mentorship and networking opportunities for women in STEM, such as the Association for Women in Science and Girls Who Code. Additionally, many universities and research institutions have implemented diversity and inclusion programs aimed at increasing the representation of women and other underrepresented groups in STEM fields.

There has also been a greater emphasis on promoting STEM education for girls from a young age. Many organizations, such as and Girls Who Code, offer programs aimed at introducing young girls to coding and other STEM fields. Additionally, many schools and community organizations have implemented STEM programs aimed at increasing the representation of girls in these fields.

The month of March has been designated as "Women’s History Month." So let's celebrate the achievements and strides women have already made in STEM, and let's continue to look toward future generations and innovations to come.

As organizations work to create more gender equality in the STEM workforce, VMblog is proud to share insights from a number of female leaders in the industry offering tangible actions organizations can take to drive change that will bridge this gap and create a more inclusive culture and opportunities for women in the workforce.


Molly Austin, Senior Director, Head of People, at D2iQ

"In order to ensure gender equality in the workforce and support for women in tech, it's essential to first get buy-in from senior leadership. Once support from the top is secured, organizations need to start by auditing the company through data such as the gender split at company level, tenure and promotion/comp increases. By taking inventory of where the company currently stands, leadership  can then identify goals for growth and improvement. Additionally, creating opportunities for women in leadership to mentor junior team members and building welcoming spaces for women to support each other in the workplace allows organizations to provide internal support and pave the way for future generations of women in the STEM workforce."


Solongo Erdenekhuyag, Head of Customer Success Management, Exasol

"One of the greatest lessons I have learned in my career is to embrace your uniqueness. The most innovative ideas often come from diverse teams where people challenge each other's ideas and bring new perspectives to the table. Always be true to yourself and embrace your differences - your unique experiences, skills, and perspectives are your competitive advantage. Hard technical skills are important in the tech industry, but let's not forget that soft skills are just as critical to success. Emotional intelligence, effective communication, creativity, empathy, and other interpersonal and leadership skills are often overlooked, but they can make all the difference. The beauty of the tech industry is that it is constantly evolving, offering plenty of opportunities to try something new."


Bec McKeown, Director of Human Science, Immersive Labs 

"My biggest advice for women entering or developing a career - especially in STEM - is to use networking as a means to build confidence and dive right in. Networking is the best way to make connections in the industry and learn where your talents can best be deployed. Since I don't have a technical background, entering a STEM field was rather intimidating, but through connecting with people in the field, I recognized that the transferable skills I possessed and understanding the bigger picture are just as important as knowing what's under the bonnet, via the more technical details, so to speak.

Cybersecurity is becoming accessible to more people, and with a focus on building and assessing capabilities - rather than educational pedigree - there certainly is the opportunity for more talent to join the industry and address one of our generation's most pressing challenges. For that reason, I would advise women to go all in, tap your connections, and see where your skills plug into the greater picture."


Bindu Sundaresan, Director, AT&T Cybersecurity

"One of my biggest pieces of advice for women who are looking to break into, or advance, in the STEM field is to be open to any and all opportunities that are presented to you. More than that, it is imperative to be proactive and ask for various opportunities as opposed to waiting for them to be handed to you. If you see a place where you can contribute, vocalize that you are willing to take the task on. This will give you increased visibility among managers and executives and will show that you are a force to be reckoned with. While the initial task may be vague when presented, it is important to look at what the journey can bring you as opposed to focusing on the end destination. You have the power to mold each opportunity and groom them specifically for your professional development. What is promising is that within the last decade, there has been significant progress in implementing STEM awareness programs and classes within the K-12 curriculum, helping to increase visibility among the minds of the future. Although it may be hard to predict what is to come next for the industry, the future looks bright for young female minds to break the status quo from decades of underrepresentation."


Melissa Rhodes, Executive Director of Human Resources, Raytheon Intelligence & Space

"The skills gap remains a persistent issue across STEM but has also created a unique opportunity for individuals from all backgrounds to enter the field. Many employers are recognizing that the existing skills gap can only be closed by looking in new places for talent and training workers from a variety of career backgrounds and experiences. As such, leaders are adapting their hiring practices to be more diverse and inclusive, specifically when it comes to recruiting more women in the field. As a result, this will foster better creativity, which is essential to brainstorming, problem solving, and generating new ideas. This is especially relevant for the cybersecurity field, which requires diverse thinking to counter malicious actors." 


Liz Li, Chief Product Officer, Velocity Global 

"Throughout my career, I've found motivation in belonging and inclusivity - largely because that was long missing in my own life. Growing up in an immigrant family and as an Asian woman in STEM, I found it hard to belong. So I made my personal motivation a professional mission and have strived always to build people and products that create belonging. I've found that having this mission has not only kept me motivated, but has also helped me prioritize and put people before products - something that has proven to create positive business outcomes. In the same vein,  I think of myself first and foremost as a people leader who finds tremendous satisfaction in helping people grow and develop their own careers. I've found that a mindset of placing people's best long-term interests first almost always aligns with creating the best products, because you're maximizing fit and productivity. 

As I think about the advice I would give other women, it would be two fold. First, find a mission or purpose that drives and motivates you. Second, find a supportive community and don't be afraid to lean into peer mentorship. My community is what gave me the vision to never give up on my aspirations. Asian women are the least likely to be promoted into management and become executives. I overcame those odds with their support, and I'm now in a position to elevate other women to do the same."


Deanna Ballew, Senior Vice President, DXP Products, Acquia

"We have to first admit to ourselves that every organization, especially tech organizations, have a long way to go to have an inclusive culture. It's not enough to have a diverse workforce, inclusivity needs to be a pillar of an organization's culture. Ensuring inclusivity is an ongoing process that organizations should continuously seek to improve, but it is rooted in the words and actions that each of us say every day. Although it can take time to establish a truly inclusive workforce, it starts at the top. 

The most impactful and immediate action that can be taken by every tech industry is to diversify executive teams. Establish new leadership roles within technology organizations that are separate from and don't reside under male dominated roles such as CTO or CIO. Include new roles that will impact how software is created and delivered with Chief Design Officer, Chief Ethics Officer, Chief Experience Officer, Chief Delivery Officer, Chief Innovation Officer. The responsibilities of these roles will shape technology companies and allow for a more diverse leadership team. We already know that representation in leadership matters for the inclusivity of an organization. The more women leaders within technology companies, the more welcomed new women will feel within those organizations."


Caroline Vignollet, SVP Research & Development, OneSpan

"In a male-dominated industry, it is critical we continue to pursue diversity of thought, especially as we seek to apply the "digital" truths we have learned from the past thirty years or so. For example, as we explore new technologies and digital experiences, such as in web 3.0, we want to ensure we are doing so with all the available talent, understanding and approaches at our disposal."

While I always present myself as a professional in the workplace, and not a woman, I do believe bringing a feminine approach to a solution, strategy, team building and thinking helps bring a different perspective to the given environment. We need to celebrate differences and ensure we are all learning from each other in order to further innovation and progress."


Colleen Tartow, Director of Engineering at Starburst

"Inclusivity touches every aspect of culture. It's about making all employees feel they can bring their authentic selves to work and that they are set up to be successful in their roles, which is an ongoing process.. A good place to start is to make sure your organization has an awareness of representation and ensures that diverse voices are both present and heard. Provide trainings for all employees in topics around diversity and inclusion, for example so leaders can design and run inclusive meetings.  It's also important to establish venues for people from different backgrounds to gather and support each other. Another way to put this into practice is to have conference organizers ensure equal representation of underrepresented groups in speaker lineups and on panels. 

A critical path to supporting employee career growth is to introduce resources and systems. Provide employee resource groups for various demographics, and create a clear, well-defined career path for all roles in your organization. These tactics are particularly beneficial for folks from underrepresented backgrounds who may not have had access to such resources and opportunities at past employers. This not only empowers individuals from all backgrounds to understand how to advance in their careers but it also helps to remove personal biases from promotion decisions."


Aditi Subbarao, Head of Financial Services, Instabase

"If you are a woman in tech / STEM - you’re already part of a disproportionately small subset, looking to thrive and grow in an environment not built for you. There have been and will continue to be numerous challenges for you to overcome, but the starting point of getting over any of these is the conviction, and the confidence, that you are exactly where you belong, and you deserve your place there. You can Be the Change, if you’ve had help - pay it forward. If you’ve had it really hard, try to stop to cycle. Be the boss, the colleague, the mentor, the friend that you wish you had. We all have a responsibility in making tech and STEM industries a place for women to thrive, succeed, and feel fulfilled - and we all have the power to do that, together."


Karen Lewis, Head of Customer Success Management, Snowplow

"Women often index highly on self-awareness and how they are perceived by others - and by virtue of that are often reluctant to showcase and take recognition for achievements. My advice to women in STEM is to identify and be your own advocate; celebrate your wins and that of your team, hoping to be recognized by others is not a strategy.
As for the next generation of female leaders, remember to embrace your uniqueness! Have confidence and instill power in your voice that will nod to emotional intelligence, empathy, inclusiveness, modesty and building human connections to make people feel valued. Never apologize for being female, and don't pander to just please others."


Published Friday, March 03, 2023 7:35 AM by David Marshall
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