It’s no secret that there is a deficit of female engineers in the U.S. Reports reveal that nationwide, just 14 percent of engineers in the workforce are women. Some blame the lack of diversity in STEM on negative public perceptions of the industry, while others believe the educational system doesn’t encourage women or minorities to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. And while there are many factors that could be deterring women from STEM fields, there are equally as many ways to encourage young women to explore these fields, and educate them on these subjects. One way is to lead by example.
To help bring more visibility to women in STEM, we partnered with Dice, your go-to resource for discovering opportunities, insights, and connections in technology. Together, we found three women who are totally redefining what it means to work in STEM, and helping blaze a new path within the fields. Whether they are educating young people, developing healthcare solutions, or revolutionizing public perceptions, these women are challenging ideas about the industry as a whole. Read on to learn more about how these women are rewriting the rules and causing us all to rethink what it means to work in STEM.
Shannon Mitchell, Chief Operating Officer of GameTheory
When you think of gaming, you might think of the retro computer games you played as a kid, or a total boys' club. Yet for Shannon Mitchell, games aren’t all, well, fun and games. They’re also a tool for research, learning, and social change. As the Chief Operating Officer of GameTheory, Mitchell works with a team of artists, designers, and developers to make innovative products using the power of play.
“At GameTheory, we tackle the world’s biggest problems by making them fun,” Mitchell says. “We know that games can be a tool to inspire empathy and motivate change. By using what people find naturally engaging, we break down complex problems into more approachable steps. With this strategy, we’ve been able to address problems like teen health, economic inequality, and workforce engagement.”
By harnessing the power of play, Mitchell hopes to challenge the idea that STEM is intimidating. Instead, GameTheory focuses on fun, even when it comes to building complex technologies. Games allow users to engage directly with tough issues, making big problems easier to understand — and take action. The company also challenges the stereotype of who works in STEM by encouraging diversity.
“Over half of our employees are women, and we’ve been a female-run company from the start,” Mitchell says. “Although tech is still male-dominated, the face of STEM is changing. There are lots of smart, creative women like us who are shaping the future of STEM.”
Lora Ivanova, co-founder of myLAB Box
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in two sexually active persons will contract a Sexually Transmitted Disease by age 25 — yet despite the high numbers, surveys show that only about 12 percent were tested for STIs in the last year. Fortunately, Lora Ivanova and co-founder Ursula Hessenflow recognized this flaw, and set out on a mission to fix the problem — with accessible, affordable and reliable STD testing. Their finished product, myLAB Box, is the first at-home screening kit for STDs.
Ivanova’s background in coding and tech, marketing, and e-commerce leadership combined with her interest in tech innovation pushed her to seek out ways to improve individuals' quality of life through technology. Through myLAB Box, she’s now able to empower individuals on a daily basis.
While most of our lives and purchases had moved online, vital services such as healthcare and infectious disease testing remained a more complicated, time-consuming, and often unpleasant process, Ivanova explained.
"We wanted to offer an alternative we believed was desperately needed — lab-certified testing that is as easy, convenient and affordable as shopping online. In a day and age when booking a date is as simple as swiping left on one's phone, the only way to make dating safe was to develop technology which empowered the user in the same way.”
Ivanova hopes myLAB Box becomes a platform for transforming the way people think and talk about our health.
“STEM has to have a purpose, and working in healthcare has given me amazing sense of gratification knowing that my work is truly transforming an entire industry, while changing lives for the better. … Empowered by technology we hope to improve access to care and resources so we can make disease a thing of the past.”
Christina Soontornvat, STEM Educator and Children's Author
In 2017, it’s not uncommon for an individual to have more than one job, or a side hustle of some kind. Yet the unlikely pairing of ‘children’s book author’ and ‘STEM educator’ is still bound to raise some eyebrows. Luckily, this unique mashup plays to Christina Soontornvat’s favor, as she wants youth to know that the number one benefit of pursuing a STEM career is flexibility.
After graduating with an engineering degree, pursuing her master’s in science education, and establishing a career focusing on ‘informal,’ or out-of-the-classroom education, Soontornvat started writing fiction when she was pregnant with her first child, later publishing her first children’s book. Today, she is a consultant for iFLY Indoor Skydiving, where she has developed and continues to oversee the company’s STEM Education field trip program, which serves tens of thousands of K-12 students and educators at iFLY Indoor Skydiving tunnels all over the country.
“Our goal is to use the thrilling context of indoor skydiving to get students excited about STEM,” Soontornvat says. “We want to reinforce the science and math content they are already learning at school while simultaneously giving them an experience they could never get inside a traditional classroom. We also get the chance to talk to these students about STEM careers - particularly engineering — and show them how fun and interesting solving real world problems can be.”
Soontornvat believes STEM Education is a social justice issue, and makes it a priority to create STEM experiences for all.
“STEM careers are the fastest growing, highest paid jobs all around the world, and they provide the most robust job security,” Soontornvat says. “In order for us to solve the problems of the future we must have a diverse STEM workforce. That means ensuring that girls and young people of color are receiving a strong STEM education both inside and outside of school.”
This post is sponsored by Dice.