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 STEM-SMART.org, 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: http://bit.ly/1jks4VW


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