Last week a panel of women spoke up about the glass ceiling separating men and women in science technology, education, and math (STEM) careers. The panel included women from major companies like GeoComm and 3M. Nicole Cody, Heather Vanslyke, Gina Cornelius and Meggan Larson all joined in on the conversation and gave advice to students in attendance about how to make it in careers that are typically held by the opposite gender.
The panelists discussed the low statistic of women in STEM fields and how important it is to have both genders represented in every career. Nicole Cody, representing 3M, talked about how when she first started in her job she was nervous about the high amount of men compared to women. She says it was intimidating to represent her gender all by herself, and how she tried to live up to high expectations, but that is why she now encourages women to take up leadership roles.
“Today, women are making less than men, but that’s because women aren’t going into the higher-paid fields,” she said. “If we want the glass ceiling to completely break then women are going to have to step up into leadership positions.”
Her sentiments were shared by the other panelists as they all talked about their own initial fears about going into their male-dominated paths and how they all conquered those fears by just jumping into the job.
Panelist Heather VanSlyke is a senior at St. Cloud State University and is looking forward to her own career at Polaris. Her perspective on women in STEM careers included how she had done many different internships and job shadows before finding her true passion at Polaris.
“I knew I wanted to go into something that had meaning to me,” VanSlyke said. “At first, I didn’t think I would ever really want to work at Polaris, but after I tried it I found out that it was something I loved. So, I think the lesson is that sometimes you can find your passion in places you don’t expect to find it.”
VanSlyke brings her ingenuity to Polaris, along with her opinions as a woman. During the panel she talked about how most of the customers at Polaris are men, but that women have also started getting interested in their machines and the company is now looking towards its female workers to provide insight into what women want when it comes to motor vehicles, thus stressing the importance of having women in the field.
When asked about what barriers they have had to conquer in order to be in their field, most of the panelists said their male coworkers were surprisingly supportive of their career advancements. It was Meggan Larson, an Analytical Senior Chemist at H.B. Fuller, who said the only barrier she had to go over was the older males who didn’t support a woman being a chemist. She said the only way to get past some peoples’ disapproval was to just ignore them.
“When you love what you do like I do, then those people won’t matter,” she said. “Right now it’s crucial that women don’t back down from challenges like STEM careers because having a female perspective on things will help all companies move forward.”
Moving forward into a more equal future was the theme of the discussion. They stressed that job shadowing and internships are good paths to any career because they show what it would really be like to work in the field. All students were welcome to attend the panel and the representatives encouraged both male and female students to go forward with their dreams no matter what, or who, stands in the way.