It’s common knowledge that engaging–and retaining–girls and women in STEM classes, STEM degrees, and STEM careers is an ongoing challenge.
Some key elements in this equation are representation, along with ensuring girls and women have role models to support them in their STEM learning and career paths.
The pandemic has prompted many workers to change their career paths, and many STEM sectors like cybersecurity struggle with talent shortages. Women only account for 28 percent of the STEM workforce today.
Here, six female tech leaders share their advice for today’s girls and women as they carve out STEM studies and career paths of their own:
Swati Shekhar, Head of Engineering, Ground Labs
“First and foremost, join STEM if and only if you truly enjoy it. Regardless of gender, everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue a career that motivates them and is personally fulfilling. If your passion is STEM, I advise gaining practical experience — do projects, tinker, build, prototype, test new technologies, spend time working both in a group and by yourself. Don’t wait for a degree or a job to describe a path for you; be ready to ‘engineer’ your own career path. And finally, identify your role models. A role model may be someone you know, but it can also be an individual you read about, or saw from afar who truly inspires you. Learn from them, but always apply what you learn analytically and critically to your unique situation.”
Bindu Sundaresan, Director, AT&T Cybersecurity
“When I started in cybersecurity over two decades ago, I was often the only woman and woman of color in the room. Now, more diversity is represented in the industry, which makes me optimistic about the future for women not just in cybersecurity, but STEM overall.
My advice for women considering a career in STEM would be to not worry about breaking the norm. If you have an idea or observation, speak up, as diversity of thoughts are often the key to solving complex problems in the industry. Early on in the journey, find strong mentors that you can lean on for career opportunities, professional advice and expanding your skill set. With a bold mindset and strong allies, you’ll be set up for success in STEM.”
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