"Math – yuck!" "Technology – what?" "Science – why do I need to know that?" Any of this sound familiar? If you have the good fortune to be around young people, you may have heard these lines before. However, there are many reasons that STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – are a global imperative. From a universal perspective, many enhancements to our way of life have come through these disciplines. Nationally, it is important for our economy and our security to have the skills, including the reasoning skills, which are inherent in these disciplines. Personally, everyone should be able to follow their passions – and very personally to me, my passions are heavily involved in STEM. STEM has served me well.
There could be a bit of "the chicken and the egg" problem when we consider that girls choose to not be involved in STEM subjects in their schooling, and similarly women are incredibly under-represented in STEM career fields. I suppose it makes sense – how would a person develop passions – or even interests, for that matter – if they don't have any experience on the topic? We don't know what we don't know. For me, wow, I can't even imagine what my life would have been like without the opportunities I have had in the STEM area.
As I speak to audiences – whether locally or globally, I receive questions about why I pursued the information technology (IT) career field. I can assure you that my answer is not "so that I could be one of the only women at the top levels!" I pursued it because knowledge of IT allows me to make a larger impact on organizations – I can instill processes and systems that accelerate growth while improving the customer experience. Perhaps the ability to leverage technology intrigues me as much as, although very differently from, the ability to leverage leadership to compel and propel teams to achieve more.
Even if you don't choose a STEM subject for your career field, take the opportunity to inspire the younger generation. I was fortunate to be encouraged into the fields of computer science and mathematics by a teacher when I was 13 years old – and he found me a scholarship to explore those talents. Today, my success in multiple organizations can be attributed to my exploration and education in STEM.
There are many organizations that provide access to STEM subjects to youth – I think one of the best is Women In Defense – Michigan Chapter
(WID-MI), and the organization that I currently chair, which creates connections between schools and industry to provide access to STEM through fun and interactive experiences for girls. Find your passions and follow them!