Welcome to part two of our Women in technology series. Last week we set down with four Lexmark women engineers to find out their thoughts on the lack of women in the technology field and what they believe can be done to help encourage more women to enter STEM careers. If you missed it, you can find it here.
Today, we are wrapping up the series with three final questions.
How can we enhance STEM education to empower girls and give them more engineering career opportunities?
Annalea Cortes: I would focus on general STEM exposure and education in middle school. Make sure girls know what real-world STEM jobs look like. For me, I just knew I didn’t want to be an accountant like my father (no spring break trips ever!) or a math teacher, but I didn’t know what else was out there.
Vien Carter: Provide more hands-on experience and strong mentors to young women. Encourage them to explore career options early and frequently. Help them develop self-confidence.
Theta Maxino: I believe that without a culture change it will be a lot harder for programs to change the status quo because these programs only target one aspect of the whole issue. Having more women role models will help.
Ildi Robey: I did not grow up in the U.S. so I did not experience STEM education first hand. I do know, however, that the quality of education is measured with test scores. We need to start focusing on the quality of STEM education and think up new ways to teach sciences, such as doing more group work and focusing on soft skills and creativity in context of engineering. This would help attract more girls to STEM fields and help boys receive a more well-rounded education. Creating a community so that young female engineers can connect with and support each other is also important.
The unfortunate stereotype that links masculinity to technology is hard to overcome. What are some way you think we can fight this stereotype?
Annalea Cortes: The best way to fight this stereotype is on a personal basis. Encourage every young girl in your life to take things apart, play with bugs, build a bird-feeder. Do it with her. You’ll both have fun!
Vien Carter: As parents, teachers, women in engineering, we are responsible to engage with the young generation and reassure them that a STEM career will be inspiring, not intimidating, and that a STEM career can be glamorous, nurturing and creative.
Theta Maxino: Media can help change this stereotype. The more movies, TV shows, articles, etc. there are about women in technology, the more accepting society will become. This will hopefully help drive more women into our field.
Ildi Robey: This goes back to educating people about what it really means to be an engineer. Having soft skills, like good communication, ability to build relationships and collaborate with others are just as important as having the hard technical skills. We could highlight successful female engineers that do not necessarily fit the stereotypes. Most females in my area are fashion forward and leading exciting lives on top of being quality engineers.
How has Lexmark empowered you in your career? What has the company done to help increase/improve your technical leadership skills?
Annalea Cortes: Lexmark has been a wonderful place for me. I started in the Tech Support Center as a co-op in college. From there I have been presented with numerous opportunities to take on more challenging roles with more responsibility. I just recently finished a Lexmark-sponsored program called Amplify, which was a very informative leadership development course. I’ve also had two baby girls during my tenure here and the company has been extremely supportive as my work-life balance needs have shifted back and forth over the years.
Theta Maxino: I have been very fortunate to be part of several leadership development
programs here at Lexmark, the top two being the Technical Leadership Development Program (TLDP) in 2010 and the Driving Change Program. These have helped me hone my leadership skills and I am grateful to my management chain for giving me the opportunity to be part of these.
Ildi Robey: Lexmark has been a great place to mature as an engineer. My managers and co-workers recognized early on that I was a passionate and capable engineer. They guided me towards opportunities that challenged me technically as well as personally. They sent me to several technical conferences and nominated me to be part of leadership development programs. I also have mentors that deeply care about me succeeding as an engineer. Overall I feel very supported.
Click here for part one of our Women in technology series.
About Theta Maxino: Theta has been with Lexmark for seven years in Embedded Systems, a part of research and development. Most of her roles have been as a technical lead and she is currently a product owner in firmware. She is normally based in Cebu, Philippines, but is currently on a two-year assignment in Lexington, Kentucky.