WGLC ’17: Growing gender diversity in STEM fields

HOUSTON — Preparing young women for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields was the focus of Tuesday morning’s panel session during day 2 of the Women’s Global Leadership Conference (WGLC) in Houston.

From left, Natalia Shehadeh, Dr. Reagan Flowers, Johanna Haggstrom, Pam Darwin and moderator Ray Dempsey.
From left, Natalia Shehadeh, Dr. Reagan Flowers, Johanna Haggstrom, Pam Darwin and moderator Ray Dempsey.

The question brought forth to the panel—which included Pam Darwin, vice president and chief diversity officer, BP America; Dr. Reagan Flowers, founder and CEO, C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc; Johanna Haggstrom, director of technology, Baroid product line, Halliburton; and Natalia Shehadeh, vice president and chief compliance officer, Weatherford—was in the aspect of the STEM field, is the industry really making progress in inclusion.

“Women aren’t going into a lot of STEM careers,” Ms. Darwin said. “We need to motivate early on and inspire teachers to motivate their students.”

Inspiring and motivating girls at a young age is the most important aspect in getting women into STEM fields, Ms. Darwin explained. While girls in second grade are passionate about STEM subjects, by the time they reach eighth grade, they are no longer interested.

“There is a sense of urgency,” Dr. Flowers said. “We must make a commitment to excellence.”

Dr. Flowers explained when getting girls interested in STEM subjects, the sooner the better.

Ms. Haggstrom spoke about how the industry is in a transition phase. While companies in the industry realize there is a problem, they have yet to make any real progress in creating a solution.

“We are in between say and do,” Ms. Haggstrom said.

But, she says, the industry is taking steps to mitigate those issues, one of which is recruiting. Companies are beginning to widen the search for employees, but getting talented women into these roles is only the beginning as companies then need to create an environment that will allow these women to thrive and become successful.

One of the ways to get girls interested early on involves bringing them into the workplace, showing them already successful women in the field, Ms. Shehadeh said. Dr. Flowers expanded on that notion, explaining that it’s imperative for women in the field to give back, through mentorship or other means, encouraging young women to go into STEM fields.

“Giving the something to aspire to and aim for,” Dr. Flowers said. “And girls do not see enough of that, there has to be a collective effort to turn that.”

The panelists all agree that volunteering and mentorship are vitally important, and they each gave several options on how men and women in the professional world can achieve it, including participating in volunteer efforts through employers, donating money to organizations focused on bringing girls into STEM fields, and going out into the community.

WGLC 2017 took place at the Hyatt Regency Houston from Nov. 1–2.

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