This blog was originally published on the Cisco Learning Network.
I’m not an engineer. I’m not technical. I didn’t pursue STEM studies in university, either. So, why am I making so much noise and effort around getting more girls and women into STEM? Simply put, I’m an “advocate” and a “voice” willing to amplify my belief in the growing need to get more girls and women involved in STEM fields.
The bug bit me five years ago when I joined Cisco as a Technical Services Manager. Prior to working at Cisco, I was a people manager at MasterCard. I had little exposure to the technical side of the business, but shortly after starting, I found myself managing engineers for the first time. It was quite an experience, and a positive one at that! I had the chance to realize and break down all the stereotypes about engineers. I came to see each one as an incredible, intelligent, unique person that I was lucky to work with.
My teams were about 15 to 20% women, which was the complete opposite of what I was used to before my time at Cisco. Hiring women into the roles proved a frequent challenge at the time, with both a lack of female candidates and a very non-diverse team of interviewers. I began working with engineers in the Middle East and learned about their challenges in pursuing STEM studies. Some were discouraged by their family and friends, while others had trouble enrolling in classes at their local universities.
Hearing their stories fueled my interest and drive to make a difference. It was just too obvious; something had to be done, and I wanted to be part of that “something!” Not all of these women were willing or comfortable to speak up about the challenges they were facing so, I was ready to be their “voice.”