Where does the responsibility for changing mindsets around women in STEM sit? Progress OpenEdge VP Colleen Smith gives her take.
I’m fully aware that encouraging women to get into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is an ongoing challenge as evidenced by the continued male dominance of these fields. I was recently interviewed by Training Zone, an online community for training professionals based in the UK, and was lucky enough to share my thoughts on the topic.
Training Zone Deputy Editor Shonette Laffy covered a wide range of subjects with me, beginning with my thoughts on the biggest obstacles facing women in entering STEM. I strongly feel that nurturing women into more technical fields needs to begin at home at any early age—parents need to look beyond the typical mindset of sports for boys and dancing for girls.
Although these types of activities are great for building teamwork and knowledge of the arts, children that have more well-rounded experiences and exposure to science and technology can end up developing very valuable attributes that can be used later in life and potentially form the necessary foundation for a very lucrative and rewarding career.
For me, my technology mindset began at an early age, when I developed strong interests in puzzles and problem solving. Those early years of playing with puzzles and creative thought processing around how to make things happen or building things are a big part of the reason why I became so interested in computer programming and problem solving when I got into high school and college.
It is crucial that we let young girls know that is it cool to be smart and encourage them to engage in activities that in the past have been viewed by society as for boys only.
Beyond early encouragement at both home and school, corporations have a responsibility to mentor women as well. Progress for example, has the Women at Progress program, an initiative that allows for equal opportunities as sometimes it can be easier for men to get more exposure to senior members of an organization. It is important for a company to make these opportunities more accessible for young women.
I am highly optimistic about the future of women in STEM. After all, some of the world’s oldest and leading tech companies—Oracle, IBM, HP and others—are led by women. However, we need to be cautious when it comes to working mother guilt, but I believe today’s technology can help overcome that obstacle.
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Colleen Smith is Vice President, Customer Advocacy at Progress. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring customer focus and accountability for improving the company’s relationship with its customers and partners, as it relates to the use of Progress core products. Smith joined the company in 2005 with 20 years of enterprise software marketing, sales and product strategy experience, and has helped transform software companies into industry leaders, built strategic partnerships, designed acquisition strategies and moved companies through aggressive growth stages.
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