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Introducing Jane Croft Harrelson PhD, ExExecutive Director at Merck

As discussed with Kamana Misra PhD., Founding Editor AWISNJ Articles

In your professional life, being a female has been an advantage or a disadvantage?

Formal PortraitIn my experience, the answer to this question depends very much on company culture as well as your immediate manager. Females, like any other diversity group, bring a unique and complementary skill set to the workplace, resulting in a different perspective, a different approach, and fresh ideas to addressing challenges and finding solutions.  In addition, interpersonal skills such as active listening, collaboration, and building trust, are critical to today’s leaders and key to building effective teams for future success.

I’ve been fortunate in my career to have many managers who recognized the value of diversity and the strengths that I brought to the job; they gave me new opportunities and really encouraged me in my career. In this respect I believe that, overall, being a female has been an advantage to me in my career.

However, it must be said that on occasion I have reported to a manager who failed to recognize the value of diversity, and I felt that being female was a disadvantage since male colleagues were given priority for new opportunities.

There is fortunately a lot of focus currently on a more inclusive STEM & Entrepreneurship landscape. Despite all the work being done, the world economic forum 2016 global gender gap report predicts it will take approximately 150 years to achieve gender equity in America. Do you think we can accelerate this process?

After almost 40 years in the pharmaceutical industry, and unfulfilled promises that the number of women holding senior decision-making positions will increase just as soon as we “catch up”, I can say with confidence that insufficient work is being done to address this issue. While progress has been made, the continued under representation of women in senior positions demonstrates that progress is way too slow.

It is imperative that we accelerate the process to achieve gender equity; I think this is critical to successfully address the complex problems that science and society will face in the future. Developing and implementing an effective plan to bring about tangible change is a challenge; this is a wider issue not just in the STEM area.

Recently, we’ve seen considerable energy and momentum building around women’s issues including equity. This is encouraging and reason to be optimistic; the time is right to identify common sense, practical solutions to gender equity. We need strong advocates to keep the case for change in the spotlight, to speak up and lead action.

What has been the role of mentoring in your professional life? Have females helped you more than males?

I’ve been fortunate to encounter both male and female leaders who encouraged me in my career and given me new opportunities to develop and grow. However overall, I would say that female mentors were the greatest role models and had the biggest impact.

I think the difference here is, having “walked a mile in my shoes”, women are generally more passionate about challenging the status quo regarding diversity and inclusion. They know the challenges that women face and are willing to share their experiences.

For me these women include scientific role models like Gertrude “Trudy” Elion, an outstanding scientist and true collaborator who overcame many challenges in her career and was one of the few women to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. Also, my former manager Lisa Shipley, who is an amazing champion for diversity; Lisa has made a significant impact on the careers of women at both her current and former companies and has proactively addressed the gender gap within her department.

Any message to the next generation of STEM professionals and the audience?

  • Have the courage to stand up and speak out, be a strong advocate for yourself, other women and diversity in general.
  • Learn from those who have gone before you, value their knowledge and wisdom.
  • Pay it forward; if you’ve benefitted from having a mentor, volunteer to be a mentor to other women.
  • Always remain authentic, true to yourself and your principles.

Introducing Nancy Steffen-Fluhr PhD

Director Murray Center for Women in Technology,

New Jersey Institute of Technology

As discussed with Kamana Misra PhD, Founding Editor AWISNJ Articles

In your professional life, being a female has been an advantage or a disadvantage?

NancyI began my academic career over 50 years ago, long before the terms “sexual harassment,” “gender schemas,” and “implicit bias” had come into use. The behaviors that these terms describe were well-established, of course—indeed, they constituted the norm—so, yes, in this context, it was a disadvantage to be a woman, especially at a STEM institution where female colleagues were few and far between.In your professional life, being a female has been an advantage or a disadvantage?

And yet, over the course of my life, the challenge of being a woman in a man’s world has been immensely empowering because it has moved me—initially as a matter of sheer survival—to form bonds with a variety of women, many quite different from myself—and to engage in mutually-supportive collective action. Those experiences have enriched my life in ways I could not have imagined at the beginning. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Really it does.

Despite the current focus on a more inclusive STEM landscape, the world economic forum 2016 global gender gap report predicts it will take approximately 150 years to achieve gender equity in America. Do you think we can accelerate this process?

Despite many advances, it’s still crucially important to have women-centric spaces to which women can turn for support and network connections—especially women in STEM who, because of their relatively small numbers, can easily become isolated without even realizing it and can end up having to “over-perform” to compensate for diminished social capital. In creating women-centric spaces, however, it’s important to be sensitive to intersectionality and to foster connections across lines of difference, mindful that how one experiences one’s gender depends on the many other dimensions of one’s identity, including race/ethnicity, socio-economic class, sexual orientation and many more.

Any message to the next generation of STEM professionals and the audience?

For career guidance in a nutshell, take a look at Joan C. William’s “What Works for Women at Work”, especially the four key patterns of gender bias she identifies and effective strategies for overcoming each:

http://gender.stanford.edu/what-works-women-work


Introducing Kim Case Esq.,

Executive Director, Research & Development Council of New Jersey.

As discussed with Kamana Misra PhD, Founding Editor AWISNJ Articles

 

In your professional life, being a female has been an advantage or a disadvantage?

Advantage: Women support other women and are there for you as mentors.

Disadvantage: Often I am the only woman in the room and sometimes that means I have to know that I may be the only person to have my perspective- I’ve learned to realize that that is okay and I still need to speak up and provide my thoughts.

Despite the current focus on a more inclusive STEM landscape, the world economic forum 2016 global gender gap report predicts it will take approximately 150 years to achieve gender equity in America. Do you think we can accelerate this process?

We absolutely can accelerate this process.  Mentoring here is key and the younger we start the better.  Information is also key.  If we provide the next generation of female leaders with the right information and guidance we will continue to make greater strives in gender equity.  If we also support more female elected officials and elected officials in general who support gender equity, policies will change faster and these policies will help increase the pace at which gender equity is realized.

What has been the role of mentoring in your professional life? Have females helped you more than males?

I have been lucky to have a lot of great mentors-both male and female.  I think there are a lot of people out there willing to mentor but if you want their help, you need to ask.  Start a conversation with them.  A lot of mentoring happens organically.  You don’t necessarily need a structured arrangement in place.  I probably still speak to my first college internship mentor several times a year, enjoying both personal and professional time together.

Any message to the next generation of STEM professionals and the audience?

For those people who haven’t taken part in mentoring, please think about how you can donate your time.  Providing your insight on a panel, taking on a formal mentoring relationship, speaking to high school students, I guarantee you have so much to offer. I also guarantee any time you donate will be given back to you ten fold in the gratification of the experience.

The views expressed by the authors in these publications do not represent the view of the AWISNJ  Articles editorial board members and the publisher disclaims responsibility and liability for any statement of fact or opinion made by the contributors. The authors of the articles are wholly and solely responsible for the article including the source of information and references.