Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Story/My Advice: Cecily Kovatch

This My Story/My Advice post features Cecily Kovatch, Senior Director at Ash Reuse Applications & Innovation Covanta.  The My Story/My Advice project highlights women in STEM that are persisting in STEM fields and making a difference. It also gives their personal advice to the next generation of young women looking for encouragement to persist in STEM.

Cecily’s Story:
I always was interested in math and science, but upon entering college, wasn't sure which major to pick. I took biology, chemistry, and physics, but none felt right. Then I took a geology class. Upon seeing the professor's slides of bridges and dams I saw the applicability of geology to real world situations that I could work in and problems I could solve. The practical, hands on nature of the subject matter excited me.

I desired to work in the field environment so I joined Schlumberger Oilfield Services, as a Field Engineer working on oil rigs. I discovered hydrocarbons in Brazoria County, Texas that had never before been produced, winning the prestigious Wildcatter Award. I later became more interested in the business side of energy, and after gaining my MBA, moved to the financial services side where I built and ran the Energy, Industrials & Basic Materials group at an independent research firm.

This financial perspective was phenomenal, but eventually I missed getting my hands dirty. I moved back to an operational company, this time in renewable energy, another passion of mine. We operate 45 power plants that convert garbage into electricity. In addition to leading our innovation program, I am executing one of our key innovation projects, the beneficial reuse of the ash that is left over after the combustion process. Its back to my geology roots to solve a real world problem while also incorporating my business acumen and market analysis to create a profitable business. It's very rewarding. My work is doing something good for the world. And even outside of work I enjoy using my STEM skills to understand the science behind nutrition, sports performance, and optimizing metabolism.

Cecily’s Advice:
Be mindful of your career path, but don't map it out too far in advance. After graduating college, I thought I would go back for a masters in geological engineering. After working a few years, I found that I was more interested in the business aspects of the energy industry, so an MBA was the better move. And do something that excites you, challenges you, and gives you purpose. A college classmate made a profound statement to me a few years back. He said "with your science degree you can do something meaningful for the world." I thought a lot about his message, and made sure that my work is meaningful every day.

Check out more inspiring stories and useful advice from women in STEM here:

Register for the upcoming Women in STEM Summit taking place October 22, 2015 in Boston, MA. The event brings together companies struggling to fill their STEM job pipelines with female college students pursuing STEM degrees. The summit is designed to facilitate closing the gap between corporate needs for a STEM-enabled workforce and student questions about job prospects that align their passion with the needs of corporate America. For more information or to register, click here:

Monday, July 13, 2015

IIR USA Tackles Nationwide Shortage of Women STEM

Women in STEM Summit and My Story/My Advice Project Connect and Support Women College Students and Leading Companies to Close STEM Talent Gap  

The Women in STEM Summit is produced by IIR USA; October 22, 2015; Waltham, MA; Visit

New York, NY – 7/13/15– The Institute for International Research (IIR USA)—a leading provider of industry conferences and specialized networking and learning experiences for professionals—has announced dual initiatives to pave the way for more women in the U.S. to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) at top companies.

-          The 2nd Annual Women in STEM (WIS) Summit produced by IIR USA and hosted by The Center for Women and Business at Bentley University (Waltham, MA) on October 22, 2015 will bring together women students from leading colleges pursuing STEM coursework, professionals in STEM fields and representatives from top companies looking to increase their STEM firepower for a day of networking, learning and collaboration around talent acquisition and career development for women in STEM.

-          The My Story/My Advice Project is an online resource connecting and supporting women in STEM—both career professionals and aspirants—through personal stories, insights and advice. Recent contributors to My Story/My Advice include PepsiCo SVP of Global Foods R&D Heidi Kleinbach-Sauter and Iowa Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds.

According to Debra Chipman, CEO of IIR USA, the WIS Summit and the My Story/My Advice Project were inspired by and aim to address two serious and growing problems: the shortage of STEM talent at companies in the U.S. and the shortage of women in STEM-related fields.

“The new jobs being created increasingly require STEM competencies and skill sets, but market data all indicate that the talent supply will not meet demand,” Chipman said.  “This trend seriously threatens our ability in the U.S. to compete, and IIR is committed to its abatement.”

“The Women in STEM Summit and the My Story/My Advice Project will provide support, access and opportunities to women in STEM and the companies that need their skills to thrive in a rapidly changing environment,” said Chipman.

WIS Summit Chair Julie Kantor, VP & Chief Partnership Officer at STEMconnector, echoed this sentiment, noting that more than 70% of jobs created in the United States will require core STEM skills—fields and disciplines in which women have historically been significantly underrepresented.

“The Women in STEM Summit fits perfectly with our Million Women Mentors initiative to address the urgent need for STEM talent at corporations and the need to attract qualified women candidates to these fields through internships, job opportunities and mentorship,” said Kantor.

For corporations, the WIS Summit provides access to potential interns and employees and a forum for professionals in corporate social responsibility and diversity and inclusion roles to meet and share ideas and information with peers at other leading companies.

In addition to a range of networking and interactive groups and sessions, the WIS Summit will include presentations and panels featuring experts from leading companies on subjects like engaging the next generation of STEM professionals, increasing STEM recruitment and retention rates and development of internal initiatives in support of creating a more diverse, competitive corporate culture.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR)—a WIS Summit partner and sponsor—will also present key findings from research into why diversity in STEM matters, factors contributing to women getting stalled early in their careers and why women and African-Americans are most likely to leave STEM careers.

For women students attending the event from multiple colleges and universities, the WIS Summit will offer direct exposure to industry professionals and representatives from companies to learn about and potentially secure internships, mentoring and, ultimately, careers that pay as much as 33% more than those in non-STEM fields.

“The Center for Women and Business at Bentley University is pleased to host the Women in STEM Summit again this year as part of our mission to help women reach their full potential in the workplace,” said Betsy Myers, a Summit Advisory Board member and Founding Director of The Center for Women and Business at Bentley University. 

“Our students attend because the Summit connects them with world-class companies that recognize the competitive advantage that women pursuing coursework in science, technology, engineering and math can bring to their organizations,” Myers added. 

For more information about the Women in STEM Idea Exchange Summit taking place October 22, 2015 please visit the website:

For the My Story/My Advice Project, please visit

IIR USA, a subsidiary of Informa PLC, is among the most recognized and trusted providers of conferences and expositions; seminars; training events; and specialized learning and networking experiences. IIR USA conceives and executes nearly 200 proprietary events annually supporting a portfolio of major industries, professions and fields of business interest. By facilitating connections between companies, individuals and communities, IIR events drive innovation, inspire excellence and help businesses and professionals grow.

For more information, visit

Krista Lentini
Marketing Manager 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

NASA Breaks the STEM Gender Barrier

The lack of women in STEM seems to be a problem everywhere except at NASA, an organization that gives women a platform to drive the conversation around the need for more women in the science.

For the first time ever, half of the astronaut class is women and today, NASA is offering new opportunities for female tech entrepreneurs. In fact, Dr. Ellen Stofan serves as the Chief Scientist of NASA. Deborah Diaz is NASA's CTO for IT, Teresa Vanhooser runs one of NASA’s largest facilities in the U.S. responsible for building rockets, and Dr. Tara Ruttley manages the science programs at the International Space Station.

NASA’s new user community called Datanaut Corps is unlocking opportunities for women entrepreneurs in the tech and maker communities to use the agency’s infinite gigabytes of open data to pioneer space-inspired data science. The program is emerging at an ideal time because according to a 2011 report by the Economics and Statistics Administration, women have seen zero employment growth in STEM jobs since 2000.

“For women in science over the centuries, our contributions to so many fields are there, but they are not talked about as much as they should be," Stofan told Fast Company. "So while most women in science have persevered by making significant contributions to every field, I think women in science today need to and are speaking up louder and louder to say, 'We are here, we are doing amazing science, and we are the role models for the next generation of STEM girls.’"

Datanauts was born out of NASA’s open-data priorities as a means to bring more women to the open-data table. The program is intended for women and men, but the founding class is made up of women to encourage other female techies and makers to take the "data leap," according to Beth Beck, Open Innovation program manager at NASA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.

NASA’s Datanaut Corps Founding Member Jennifer Lopez is working to shape the direction of the Datanauts with NASA’s Open Innovation team, hoping to inspire future engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, and young people to collaborate with NASA.

"We’re providing the tools and the outreach to enable more women [and men] not only in STEM to collaborate and utilize NASA’s open data, but we want the world to know everyone has access," she said. "You don’t have to be a developer or a coder or a scientist to participate. The more diverse the participants, the more opportunities we will have to find newer, more innovative solutions and approaches to using the data."

One of the top priorities of the Datanauts is to develop strategies with NASA to engage the broader community in using and studying these enormous data, which are in their highest form when the storytelling and collaboration humanize the numbers. The Datanauts class is currently helping the Open Innovation team understand the needs of their communities so they can create the kinds of engagements that matter most to them. There are five objectives for the program design including encouraging new data problem-solvers with an initial focus on women, advancing data science, building and enhancing the data innovation community of practice, enabling leapfrog skills development, and creating an environment to foster breakthrough innovations.

For the full program rollout, the Datanaut Corp team is aiming to build virtual problem-solving activities, such as online data treasure hunts, mini-data challenges, and next-generation community engagements including data dinner clubs and pop-up challenges where communities can gather for a few hours to discuss and analyze an issue or challenge. To kick off the founding class, the Open Innovation team gathered top NASA executives to share their stories about the twists and turns in their careers.

According to Diaz, communication skills of women that may be their strongest asset when working with open data. "Women are poised to significantly enhance the data science field with their innate ability to strategically analyze and communicate.”

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignSTEAM Accelerator , Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

The Women in STEM Idea Exchange Summit Wants to Hear Your Story

Last year, The Women in STEM Idea Exchange Summit at Bentley University was a roaring success. Attendees, both students and corporations alike, shared what they have experienced and learned, gained insight into best practices for recruitment and retention, engaged with the next generation of STEM women and worked together to drive change.

This year, the event is coming back and will be held on October 22, 2015 at Bentley. The summit is hosted by the Center for Women and Business and supported by STEMconnector and the Million Women Mentors program along with several other academic and media partners. The special event helps to close the gap between corporate needs for a STEM-enabled workforce and student questions about job prospects that align their passion with the needs of corporate America. This happens in a very tangible way at the event by bringing these two groups together to learn from each other and make connections that create jobs, mentor relationships, internships and a community of passionate people who are working in science, technology, engineering and math.

The Summit has also brought back its inspiring My Story/My Advice Project to connect the community of women in STEM jobs, give them an opportunity to share their experiences and their insights, and a platform to pay it forward and offer advice to the next generation of women. These are a powerful and diverse group of women who have shared their stories of perseverance, sometimes hardship, and ultimate success.  Learn more about this initiative here:

To learn more about The Women in STEM Idea Exchange Summit or to register, click here:

The Women in STEM Idea Exchange Summit 2015 Team