Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Step IT Up America

What if there was a way to create more opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)?  UST Global recently announced that it has taken the initial step in addressing the well-known gender problem in the STEM industry.  The information technology solutions and services company, based in Los Angeles, hopes to promote the education and subsequent hiring of more than 5,000 women by the year 2020.

Step IT Up America is an initiative to create jobs and further develop the current Information Technology (IT) workforce.  To date, UST Global has launched Step IT Up America in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, Los Angeles and Chicago, with plans to bring the program to five more U.S cities by the end of 2014.

The most recent city made to “Step IT Up” is Chicago.  With the promise to train 100 women in the field of IT, the program is underway with an inaugural class of 33 women. 

Sajan Pillai, CEO of UST Global, spoke about diversifying the technology industry.  “The three pillars of a successful technology company are talent, innovation and diversity.  Without diversity, we are unable to gather the best and brightest minds that bring unique perspectives to create meaningful solutions for the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Step IT Up America has already affected the lives of over 300 women in the five cities it operates in, and will continue to even the STEM playing field well into the future.

Read more about Step IT Up American and UST Global here:

Monday, June 23, 2014

STEM Chat with Courtney Tanenbaum

STEM chat
STEM chat with Courtney Tanenbaum
June 23, 2014
Courtney Tanenbaum, Senior Researcher, STEM Marketing & Research Lead, American Institutes for Research (AIR)
The person who inspired me the most when I was growing up was my grandfather. He was kind, funny, always ready with a hug, and always inventing things—both in the kitchen and in his garage! As I got older, he also listened to all of my ideas with such thoughtfulness and interest; he truly made me believe I could accomplish anything I wanted.

To me, the greatest mathematician/technologist/scientist/ engineer is Amelia Earhart. A woman who broke the mold, and inspired the adventurer in all of us!

If I could tell a young woman pursuing STEM one thing, it would be "persist".

If I could meet one person it would be Eleanor Roosevelt.

My favorite non-fiction book is "The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton" by Jerome Karabel.

My favorite fiction book is Jane Eyre. Although I was recently introduced to a different kind of love story, "The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics." For anyone who loves STEM and appreciates the creativity and artfulness of science, this is a love story for you!

My favorite source of industry news is Science. The most recent edition is a special issue on the science of equity. I love how they bring to light how integral science and technology are for solving the world's biggest challenges.

To me a successful woman is a woman who is confident in herself, is meaningful in her work, and always willing to listen and learn more.

My favorite technological innovation is Facetime/Skype. Being able to interact with loved ones myself, and to share my son's growth, laughter, and playfulness, with those who are far away with more than just voice, is truly a gift.

In high school, I wish I knew that I actually was good at math and science.

When I first started to work in my field I never realized the issues of equity and opportunity in STEM, and how critically important exposure to STEM is early in one's life in ensuring the widest array of choices to all individuals.
My dream project is visiting the schools and institutions that have successfully fostered STEM talent in neighborhoods and within communities that are too often overlooked or underserved in these fields; and then sharing their strategies and successes to motivate change in behavior, practices, and perceptions among others.

The best advice I ever received was if you don't understand something, ask!

In my free time I...Yikes?! What free time…when I do find some, I curl up with a big book (and not a kindle, but an old fashioned hardback or paperback)!

The best way to unwind after a long day is a nice long walk with loved ones or friends.

The smartest person I've ever worked with...There are too many to name just one! But, I recently attended the Advancing Equity in STEM Symposium in Washington, DC and the physics teacher from a STEM-focused charter school served on one of the panels. A fantastically smart woman when it comes to engaging youth in STEM, and someone anyone would be lucky to work with, I imagine.

My favorite city in the world is Seattle. Perhaps not as exciting as it sounds, but it reminds me of home and I love the water, the mountains, the food, and the coffee!

If I had a one year sabbatical, I would travel and read lots and lots of books.

The biggest misconception about women in STEM is that they are different than other women.

My tools of the trade are in broadening participation in STEM research, I find the most useful "tools" are attending events on the issue, reading diverse perspectives and ideas, and asking questions!

The biggest thing that has changed since I started in the industry is the emerging focus on changing STEM cultures and environments (rather than "fixing" individuals) to successfully engage a wider array of diverse individuals in the STEM community.

I'm happiest when I'm with family and friends.

I lead by sharing my passion and interest for the work with my team. I'm proud that I push myself to accomplish what is important to me in all aspect of my life—career, family, friends, and health.
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Women in STEM Stories: Nicole Richard

Science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers are characterized by innovation, exploration and progress.  With the right qualifications and the drive to succeed, anyone can thrive in a STEM career, especially women.  The challenge is this: how can we get more women to shrug off the preconceived notion that the STEM world is a man’s world?  

Our solution is to find some of the brightest and most inspiring women in STEM fields today, and have them share their stories and even some advice on how they managed to succeed with all odds against them.  

In her own words, Senior Project Manager at LabVIEW, Nicole Richard, describes her path to working in STEM:

 “I took a programming class in high school, and the logic of it just clicked with me. I found myself spending my lunch hour modifying my hangman program to add an ambulance that would drive across the screen to cart the figure off. Since I liked programming and knew I could make a good living at it, I decided to major in Computer Engineering. However, throughout college and my early career, I struggled with feelings that engineering wasn't the right fit for me. Then one day I got the opportunity to begin working with LEGO to design robotics systems for kids, and a whole new relationship to engineering and the opportunities it offers to really make an impact in the world started to open up for me. I've discovered and developed a passion for using technology to open up new educational opportunities for kids, particularly in underserved areas of the world.”

Stories like Nicole’s are music to our ears.  They are the reason we, at IIR USA, believe the Women in STEM Idea Exchange Summits have the potential to change the world.  If we are able to show just one girl the potential of a career in STEM, we would be making a difference.

The first of four STEM Exchange Summits will take place on October 21, 2014 at the Center for Women and Business at Bentley University in Massachusetts.  Corporations will have the opportunity to make one-on-one connections with students who are possible future employees, while students learn about the rewards of STEM career paths.

Help us change the face of STEM for good.

Register for Women in STEM today to listen, learn, discuss and be inspired:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Diversify the STEM Workforce

Four billion dollars, not doll hairs, dollars.  That is the net worth of the world’s top three female leaders in technology.  Former President and CEO of eBay and current Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman; Yahoo President and CEO Marissa Mayer; and Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg are all among the most successful women in the world of technology.

With such affluent women like these three to look up to, one would assume many aspiring young women would attempt to follow in their footsteps.  This, however, is not the case.  Women make up around 60 percent of college and university graduates, yet only 24 percent have chosen to work in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields.

The total lack of female representation in STEM isn’t without reason, though.  Many women find it considerably intimidating to enter a career field that has so long been dominated by men.  It is important for women and other minorities underrepresented in STEM jobs to understand that the world will always have a need for technological advancement, and with the right qualifications, they can make it happen.

If contributing to the growth of the world isn’t enough, maybe a sufficient sum of money will persuade more women to enter the STEM world.  According to the Office of Science and Technology, women in STEM careers can earn up to 33 percent more money than women in other occupations.  If that doesn’t encourage more women to pursue a job in STEM, who knows what will. 

Women must realize that businesses are constantly looking to diversify their workforce.  This need for diversity presents a wonderful opportunity for women to enter a primarily male workforce, and to actually contribute and make a difference.  More female workers in STEM are the key to innovation and the world’s future growth because they provide a way to develop new concepts and give fresh perspectives on previously male ideas.

To find out more about the need for women in STEM, read:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Talking STEM: Dr. Uma G. Gupta

I recently sat down with Women in STEM Exchange Summit speaker Dr. Uma G. Gupta, founder and executive director of, to discuss what she loves so much about her field, and the importance of diversity to the STEM workforce.

The Women in STEM Exchange Summit in Boston will bring together women in STEM professions this fall. For companies, the summit provides the opportunity to make one-to-one connections with potential employees, feed mentoring and internship pipelines, maximize ROI of K-12 STEM investments, increase STEM retention rates, and promote initiatives in support of women in the workplace. For college students, the summit provides an opportunity to learn about corporate internships, mentoring programs and the many rewarding career paths that are open to STEM educated young women.

Here’s what Dr. Gupta had to say:

IIR: What’s your favorite part about your job in STEM?

Dr. Gupta: It gives me an opportunity to help people solve complex problems. I have to continuously learn from others in order for me to improve my own thinking and problem-solving skills. Every day opens up a world of possibilities.

IIR: How and why did you decide to go into STEM as a career?

Dr. Gupta: At one point in my life, it seemed like the best path forward to economic security. However, once I got into it, I loved it. There were not too many women in the field and I had an opportunity to work with thinkers and those who had very different academic and life experiences than I did. I stayed in the field because I loved it and saw the possibilities for making a difference in the world.

IIR: Why is it so important today to broaden the diversity of the STEM workforce?

Dr. Gupta: What does any organization want? They want to achieve their mission and win in the marketplace whether it be a profit or not-for-profit organization. In order to do this, one has to be creative and innovative in order to survive and to achieve a competitive edge. At the heart of creativity is diversity. The more we are exposed to different ideas and experiences and perspectives, the more creative we become. This is backed by compelling and irrefutable evidence that diverse teams and organizations are more productive, generate more profits, and weather market storms much better than organizations that are not committed to diversity. STEM workforce, or for that matter any workforce, benefit from the influx of creative ideas and experiences that a diverse team brings to problem-solving and critical thinking.

IIR: Where do you see the Women in STEM industry in 10 years?

Dr. Gupta: I see the next generation as being creative. They easily and readily disrupt traditional models of business. They have the potential to make gender a non-issue. This is my fond hope and dream that the discussion will shift from gender to talent.

IIR: What do you see as the biggest obstacle for Women who work in STEM? How can it be overcome?

Dr. Gupta: The biggest obstacle I see is that women tend to under-estimate themselves. Women must build and expand their confidence levels. They must be go-getters. They must step forward and take on challenging assignments, even if they don’t have all the skills, experiences, and talents that the job may demand. They must lead with grace and power.

IIR: What can we expect from your session at the event, “Broadening the Breadth of the STEM Workforce through Racial and Ethnic Diversity”?

Dr. Gupta: Everyone knows and agrees that diversity is important. I will focus on three things that organizations can do to break through this barrier. My recommendations will be based on research findings from the world of neuroscience and it will show how we can make better decisions and follow through on these decisions to effect change.

Don’t miss Dr. Gupta speak at The Women in STEM Exchange Summit in Boston on October 21, 2014! She will be presenting a session, “Broadening the Breadth of the STEM Workforce through Racial and Ethnic Diversity” at 11:30 am. For more information about the event or to register, click here:

Monday, June 9, 2014

Female Scientists to be Introduced in New LEGO Set

Despite overwhelming controversy surrounding the 2012 release of LEGO’s Friends line, the mega-mogul toy company will push forward with its upcoming release of an official set of female scientist minifigures.  The figures will depict a chemist, an astronomer, a paleontologist and other women in scientific professions.

The idea for the 13 female character set came last year from Swedish geochemist, Alatariel Elensar.  Elensar confronted the LEGO Company through a fan-based design website called CUUSOO.  The website allows users to design their own LEGO character sets and, with enough support from the local LEGO community, have the set implemented as a limited edition release to the public.

LEGO’s previous attempt at marketing and releasing an all-girl line, called the Friends line, was met with great financial success, but many women took to the internet to voice their opposition to the new set.  With the popular hashtag #LiberateLEGO, women expressed their disapproval of LEGO’s decision to stereotype women into being carefree shoppers who wear pink… a lot of pink.  

Seven year old Charlotte Benjamin captured the LEGO Company and the world’s attention when she sent in a hand-written letter, asking that LEGO “make more LEGO girl people and let them go on adventures and have fun.”  Charlotte’s plea was in direct response to the LEGO Friends line, where the female characters, in Charlotte’s words, “sit at home, go to bed, and shop,” while the boys “went on adventures, worked, saved people, and had jobs, even swam with sharks.”

Charlotte will be pleased to know that LEGO’s new female scientist set will include women who hold some of the most adventurous jobs, including oceanographer Sylvia Earle, who swam with sharks on many occasions.

LEGO hopes the new female scientist set will ease the publics’ concern about how the toy company may or may not be including women in their more adventurous sets.

Watch LEGO’s announcement of the new line here:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Time for STEM is Now

What could be more important to President Obama than a visit from recent Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks?  Well, possibly a visit from a group of gifted young students to this year’s White House Science Fair.

“As a society we have to celebrate outstanding work by young people in science,” stated the President.  “Superstar biologists and engineers, and rocket scientists and robot builders, they don’t always get the attention they deserve, but they’re what’s going to transform society.”

The President’s words resonated within the exhibitions he oversaw.  Ranging from remote-operated vehicles that assist search-and-rescue dive teams, to potential cures for cancer and influenza, it is clear these young minds will push society into the future. 

This year’s science fair not only exposed the President to how bright America’s future is, but also incorporated a special focus on the young women behind these STEM inspired projects.  Of the twelve projects seen by President Obama, eight were led by or included women.  The presidential administration was very pleased by this as it hopes to generate a more youthful interest in STEM as well as the gender ratios of students who are studying these subjects, and with good reason. 

Women currently make up 59 percent of U.S college graduates, yet only 12 percent of those women graduate with a degree in a scientific field.  It is in the country’s best interest to integrate women into STEM fields.  More women in STEM professions will increase overall productivity as well as show the world what women are really capable of.  Just take a look at what the amazing minds at the White House Science Fair were able to accomplish.

Read about some of the amazing projects here: 

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