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Grown from STEM: March Edition

03/29/2021 8:02 AM | Anonymous

Dear Members, Sponsors, Volunteers, Supporters and Friends,

Happy Spring everyone, I can feel the excitement of warm weather and maybe the end to the pandemic on the horizon! We are keeping our fingers crossed we will be able to meet face to face very soon. In the meantime, we continue our platform of engaging virtual programming. We are wrapping up a successful ClickSide Chat series on March 31, 2021 focused on interviewing tips and best practices. These interactive sessions have allowed us all to connect, engage, and encourage each other via moderated discussions by Women & Hi Tech Board Members. We also have had on-going Book Club sessions, that have included discussions with the book authors.

We hope you enjoyed our new social media “templates” to shout out noteworthy women and their accomplishments in STEM. Our Women & Hi Tech International Day of Women and Girls in Science and Women’s History month postings were a hit and conveyed inspirational messages of encouragement to the women in STEM community. A big thank you to those who participated and to our Communications Committee, led by Lori Boyer, who developed the template and trained us on how to use them. You will see more of these in the future!

As we move forward into 2021, we are busy planning several events that we are sure you will not want to miss. These include our signature Executive Women’s Forums (EWF) and our biennial Fall Retreat. The EWF in April will be virtual and focuses on women Entrepreneurship in STEM. The Fall Retreat is being planned for October at French Lick. The details and registration of these exciting events will be shared soon.

In our 26th edition of "Grown from STEM" we circle back to Engineering. Women engineers have made many notable technology innovations and developments including designing the Brooklyn Bridge, inventing the frequency hopping theory that serves as the basis for modern communication technology such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, developing Kevlar, ergonomic designs, and the windshield wiper. The movie Hidden Figures brought to light the tremendous contribution women, specifically women of color, made to the space program. But when I decided to pursue engineering, none this information was mainstream. Women engineering accomplishments were not in the news, or otherwise being communicated. My interest in engineering was sparked because I thought it was glamorous and heard I could make a lot of money. My father was an engineer and I thought he looked powerful wearing a hard hat with a clipboard in hand. His travel seemed exciting. His handwriting immaculate. He could build anything (including the a-frame playhouse my sisters and I spent hours enjoying). It just seemed awesome.

I started my engineering career at a time when there were very few female engineers in the workforce, and quickly learned that the work was anything but “glamorous”. I got a big dose of “educated women” not being welcome or as good as the educated men. The dynamics were not friendly to say the least. There were Playboy pin-ups proudly displayed in male colleague workspaces, trade shows with “Miss Snap-On Tool” parading around, no female bathrooms to be found at plants, constant tests to see if I would climb a ladder to the top of a 120’ tower or crawl inside a boiler because I was the “tiny one”, the pipe grease in my hard hat and secret meetings that I wasn’t invited to. It’s amazing I could do my job given all this “stuff” going on, but I did. And I did it well. I persevered and made it clear that not only was I not leaving (there would be a price to pay for touching my pink hard hat) and more importantly that I was a great engineer. With this, the constant harassment diminished to a low hum and I was given a seat at the table more often than not.

I point this all out because I think it is now a prominent fact that women are fantastic engineers. While there is still unconscious bias to overcome and work to do to give women engineers equal standing with their male counterparts, women engineers are now being recognized for their talent, given credit for their technical contributions and are an important member of technical teams bringing forward innovative technology platforms.

This month we feature two talented engineers who continue to drive home the point that women engineers have a high degree of technical expertise, are strong leaders and are making meaningful technical contributions to emerging and innovative technology programs. We would like to introduce you to Women & Hi Tech’s Active Emeritus Board Member and former President, Tiffany White and dedicated Emeritus Board Member Melissa Lavella. Tiffany is the Head of Engineering Operations in Rolls Royce Defense Sector. She is recognized for being a champion for team diversity to leverage the best from all perspectives. Melissa is a Senior Quality Supervisor at Roche Diagnostics. Similar to Tiffany, she couples her technical expertise with a passion for advancing team diversity to drive innovation.

Both women speak loudly about the value Women & Hi Tech has on the STEM community, girls considering STEM careers and personal career development. In closing, I would encourage you to consider joining our Board of Directors. We recently announced seven open board positions this year. Being part of the leadership of the organization is truly an honor, a lot of fun, and an excellent career development opportunity. Universally, those who serve on the board indicate that it is an absolutely wonderful opportunity to mature as a leader and team member. All the job descriptions are available on our website and applications are being accepted through April 25, 2021

As we began in the October 2020 edition of "Grown from STEM," we are delighted to continue to feature one of our 2020 Virtual Leading Light Awards (LLAs) recipients in this newsletter. This month we continue to celebrate and recognize Women & Hi Tech Leadership Leading Light Award recipient Christine McDonnell. Christine is Co-Founder and CEO of Codelicious, a K-12 SaaS education technology company. She knew there had to be a way to get Computer Science to more students--and especially girls--and when she didn't see the solution readily available, she decided to create one. She's also used her extensive network to create the Confidence Builders program where young girls are given opportunities to interview influential women. She manifests empathy and care for every employee, student, and fellow human she connects with. Again, congratulations Christine!

Linda M. Hicks
President-Elect, Women & Hi Tech

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