Tell us a little bit about you...
My background is not the formal expected background, I have no further education in any area of STEM and have gradually grown into my role by using experience, passion, and networking. I was initially attracted by my love for analytics and problem solving. Having started with this area, I then progressed by doing courses which then lead me into software then programme management to product management to my current role – Head of Development.
What attracted you to the STEM sector and what do you think makes it a good place for women?
Throughout my various roles, I have encountered so many influential people who have encouraged my growth, mentored, and shown me doors that would not normally be open. The networking aspect of STEM was what made me feel included, encouraged, and influenced to expand my knowledge and career within the area.
The network of inclusivity from all areas makes this an excellent area for women as there are so many dynamics from all backgrounds and walks of life – this makes it easier as the diversity and inclusion opportunities for this area is massive.
Has there been anyone who has positively influenced your decision to pursue a career in STEM?
I have had many people influence my career throughout my climb and being honest, most of them have been male. I will never forget the first one who believed in me and gave me my break into software, if it were not for this person showing that belief goes a long way in getting to where you want to be – I would never be where I am today. This was the most pivotal part in my career and changed the whole trajectory with their belief in me and taught me a different way of looking at myself. To this day – we are still in touch, still he cheers me on from the side.
Is there a clear difference in your experience of being a woman in the sector at the beginning of your career and now?
To be honest, no. There is still ‘daily struggles’ no matter what area as there is still a misconception at times or some people who have not managed to adjust to the idea that women are equal, but this seems to be fading through time and joining to companies with exemplar leadership.
Have you faced any obstacles in your leadership journey because of being a woman?
Yes, I have come across a lot of suppression and jealousy throughout my career. This has prevented promotions, job opportunities and even in some cases caused relationship strains. Having had obstacles most of my career – I have learned not to rise to them and instead approach with understanding and guiding that person/area to gain knowledge of where their feelings/opinions route from. Having an understanding that everyone’s opinions route from a previous experience or learning and in some cases understanding how they got to that opinion can sometimes be an advantage to working through the obstacle.
What would you say to women considering a career in the STEM sector?
I would advise them to do it – if you have a genuine interest in the industry then go ahead! Just make sure that you make the effort to network and do not be afraid to ask for mentors, support or ask for shadowing in areas you have an interest.
If you were with a group of peers this evening and talking openly about this topic, what would be the key issues discussed?
•Recognising support and helping others by sharing networks
•Overcoming objections and how to approach
•Building confidence and handling imposter syndrome
Who do you think are the most inspiring women in STEM?
Marie Curie by far my most inspiring – besides my personal mentors.
Are there any initiatives you would like to highlight as being particularly progressive around this topic?
There are lots of free training and guides where you can even get qualifications from across various platforms – sign up to all the training areas and join all the groups so you can keep alert of what is coming through.
What can the STEM sector do to help achieve greater gender balance?
There needs to be more training over how to manage people as a whole and more leadership training. There are still businesses out there who are promoting people to levels without the relevant training in leadership and think that management training will cover it. People need investment from the companies so the culture can be driven to change.
There has been lots of media coverage as of late around a number of organisations requiring staff to return to the office and the potential impact this may have on caregivers (predominantly women).
Do you have any views on this and the resulting impact on attracting and retaining women in the STEM sector?
Personally – I think there needs to be a level of trust and flexibility in this area. I am seeing more of a balance since COVID where it is now being more accepted that it is not just the women who are the main caregiver and there is now a lot of males stepping into this role and being more comfortable in coming forward to ask for them. The stigmatism of the female caregiver is now being more balanced.