The economic fallout of this year has had a major impact on women in the workplace. A recent survey found that 58 percent of women say the events of this year have had a negative impact on their careers - and a quarter of those say they have been considering a career change since the pandemic hit. Many of those women are looking at STEM fields. And with good reason - it is an industry forecasted to grow at a greater rate than others in the years ahead.
Who better to talk to about the potential for growth in these fields and the benefits of this growing career trend than Dr. Sudha Ram? As the Anheuser-Busch Chair in MIS, and director of the INSITE Center for Business Intelligence and Analytics at the University of Arizona, Sudha thinks women inherently are wired for STEM related careers. The ability to multitask and think ahead about the potential outcomes of each action are exactly the kind of skills required for STEM fields.
“If you really think about it fields like artificial intelligence and computer science, there's nothing that's male specific about the domain itself and computers certainly don't distinguish women from men, so I don’t think women should be afraid.”
When she was younger, her mother always told her to blaze that trail and pursue her passions. She was also inspired by Geneva Belford, a computer science professor and Sudha’s PHD advisor at the University of Illinois who helped encourage Sudha to stick with her studies.
Strong female role models in these areas can improve young girls’ beliefs that they can be successful in STEM fields and increase their likelihood of choosing a STEM career. Sudha became interested in quantitative fields, especially in math and science at an early age. She thinks that encouraging children to take an interest in these courses and exposing them to coding and programing early will go a long way to expand the diversity in STEM.
“Pursue your passion. Never be discouraged by looking at gender stereotypes. If you like something, move towards it with every piece of effort that you can put into it. There's nothing stopping you.”
Expanding diversity in STEM is especially important as more businesses rely on technology sciences to function. Diversity leads to better problem-solving regarding the use of those technologies and is important for long-term economic growth.
Sudha directly experiences the benefits of diversity in her work with students at the University of Arizona. She says she is always learning from them. Her students are always bringing up new ideas which she then uses in her research. Together they are pushing forward into new scientific frontiers.
Thank you Dr. Sudha Ram for your #LeadHership in STEM.
If you enjoyed this blog, stay tuned for the first episode of our podcast “Learn, Collect, Succeed” where I talk with Dr. Sudha Ram in depth about her work with big data analytics, machine learning, and women in STEM.