You probably never heard of a company called 3M but you’ve certainly heard of Scotch Tape, Post-it, and Command Strips.
Those are just a few of the products that exist because of innovative solutions created by scientists and engineers who work at 3M. They’re applying science to life to improve the way we live. That’s the kind of work that is possible with a career in STEM.
But the STEM field isn’t balanced in terms of gender. Overall, women represent just 24 percent of the STEM workforce according to a report from the executive office of the President. While women are more likely to go into life sciences and social sciences like psychology, there’s a wide gender gap in fields like computer science and engineering. Often cited reasons for this gap include gender bias, combined with cultural forces that steer young women and girls away from those types of careers early on.
There’s many initiatives and organizations now working to fight those early forms of bias including DoSomething.org who is hosting a scholarship targeted towards young women and girls. All you have to do is play a game where you solve a mystery using science and math. The prize is a $10,000 scholarship. Sound fun? Try it out here.
In the meantime, to gain some inspiration from women currently in STEM doing their thing read below:
1. Kandyce Bohannon, Software Engineer, 3M
How did you first know you wanted to pursue science? For me, my love for science started with a non-hatred towards math. As math classes got more difficult and I was being asked for help from my friends more often, I realized that I get a real sense of satisfaction from helping others and solving tough problems.
What kinds of STEM-related things were you into as a teenager? I was not on a robotics team or anything cool like that, but I have always enjoyed identifying patterns. Something that I’ve noticed about my fellow female engineers is that a large majority of us were in choir or band or something musical.
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on and why? In general, I figure out how to bridge the gap between the physical and digital worlds. This usually involves thinking about how a product is used and how someone would like to use a product. One of the coolest things I’ve worked on recently is related to eye tracking in a head mounted display.
What female scientist do you most admire and why? Ada Lovelace is my favorite female scientist. She was a mathematician during the 1800s and is attributed with developing the first algorithm ever. Because of her algorithm development, she is known as the first computer programmer. (Not the first female programmer, but THE first programmer.)
What would you say to young women to encourage them to pursue STEM? “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
2. Karlie Kloss, model and avid coder
- Connection to STEM: The supermodel, who took coding classes last summer and has since become an advocate for teaching young women computer programming, has launched a partnership with the Flatiron School in New York to create the Kode with Karlie scholarship for 20 girls, ages 13 to 18.
- “Code is only going to continue to play a major role in defining our future. I think it’s crucial that young women learn to code as early as possible to ensure that we as young women have a voice and a stake in what the world looks like,” Kloss said.
3. Jayshree Seth, Corporate Scientist, 3M
How did you first know you wanted to pursue science? I grew up in a University town and was surrounded by Engineers. It was almost assumed that we would pursue science-based careers!
What kinds of STEM-related things were you into as a teenager? Nothing specific actually! We didn’t have that much opportunity to do additional things beyond school.
What female scientist do you most admire and why? Grace Hopper – she made many contributions in the field of computing, a field that was pretty much all male-dominated.
What would you say to young women to encourage them to pursue STEM? Don’t hold yourself back – go for it! So many problems waiting to be solved…
4. Isis Anchalee
- This 22 year old, female, platform engineer created the viral hashtag #iLookLikeAnEngineer which is now being spread globally in over 50 countries. It has received over 75,000 tweets and has been covered in countless international news outlets.
- “Gender diversity challenges seem to be what mainstream media has picked up on the most. While I think that it is absolutely wonderful that this has sparked so many positive discussions about the way that women are treated in STEM, I want to clarify that #iLookLikeAnEngineer is intentionally radically inclusive. It’s not just about me and it’s not just about women. #iLookLikeAnEngineer is about anyone and everyone who wants to pursue STEM, regardless of their external appearances,” said Isis in an interview with the Washington Post.
5. Mary Caruso Dailey, Product Development Specialist in IATD, 3M
General job responsibilities: developing a new film product that is scratch and stain resistant; I lead the adhesive part of this project to figure out how to stick this film on to different surfaces.
How did you first know you wanted to pursue science? I was good in math and science, but it wasn’t until I went to Space Camp after 5th grade that I enjoyed it so much and saw that it could help me become an astronaut.
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on and why? My current project. It’s such a unique product that is new to the marketplace
What female scientist do you most admire and why? Sally Ride because she wasn’t afraid to work on things related to space.
What would you say to young women to encourage them to pursue STEM? Try out some various applied positions where you use math and science. When you actually get to do experiments in a real world setting, it becomes more relevant and exciting. You never know if you will like it until you try it. Also, seek out scientists and ask them lots of questions. We’ve been in your shoes and love to share our experiences.
6. Kimberly Bryant, Founder of “Black Girls Code”
“Much has changed since my college days, but there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions, an absence that cannot be explained by, say, a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits. By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills in technology and computer programming at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.” via
7. Margaux Mitera, Post-it® Note Product Development Engineer, 3M
How did you first know you wanted to pursue science? Growing up, I always loved ‘getting my hands dirty’ with home science experiments like making silly putty from glue. During my chemistry lab classes in school, I saw the power of chemistry come to life and decided I needed to have a career in science.
What kinds of STEM-related things were you into as a teenager? I came from a small town that did not really have extracurricular STEM opportunities so I took as many science classes as possible in high school.
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on and why? At 3M, I love all the projects I’ve worked on; I get to develop brand new technologies that enable new-to-the-world products! Right now, I am enjoying developing new Post-it® Note products.
What female scientist do you most admire and why? Rosalind Franklin’s contributions to identifying DNA structure is an inspiring story from which female scientists can learn about dedication and perseverance.
What would you say to young women to encourage them to pursue STEM? The only person that can hold you back from your dreams is YOU! Dream big and work hard – you will find success!
8. Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer of the United States
- Megan Smith is an award-winning entrepreneur, engineer, and tech evangelist. She most recently served as a Vice President at Google. Megan previously served as CEO of PlanetOut, a leading LGBT online community in the early days of the web, where the team broke through many barriers and partnered closely with AOL, Yahoo!, MSN, and other major web players. Megan was part of designing early smartphone technologies at General Magic and worked on multimedia products at Apple Japan. Read more badass accomplishments.
- AS CHIEF TECHNOLOGY officer of the United States, Megan Smith often uses her public stage to point out that women have always been coders—and crucial to the evolution of computer science. “They’ve just been written out of history,” she says.
9. Dr. Bridgette Shannon, Product Development & Clinical Research
How did you first know you wanted to pursue science? I was always motivated by science classes, more so than the other subjects. As a result, I focused on pursuing a career in science.
What kinds of STEM-related things were you into as a teenager? As a teenager, I participated in several summer programs focused on the medical sciences and shadowed several physicians to gain a better understanding of what it takes to be in that profession. I did not do it alone. Fortunately for me, I had my family, mentors, and very special teachers who made sure that I was exposed to several professions to help me decide where I wanted to be in life.
What’s the coolest project you’ve worked on and why? Every project that I have worked on has been fun, which makes it difficult for me to rank them. However, my current project is really cool because I have the opportunity to develop mineral that can cut through metal, ceramics, and wood. As a result, I get to operate different machining equipment to test the mineral performance which gives me a better insight about tooling, machining processes, material characteristics. I probably would not have explored this area if it were not for my prior exposure to STEM related projects. I am glad that I did!
What female scientist do you most admire and why? Ursula Burns – She started her career as an engineer and has excelled to becoming the CEO of a large corporation, which demonstrates that anything is possible.
What would you say to young women to encourage them to pursue STEM?Don’t be shy about asking for help. Persistence will take you a long way.
10. Döne Demirgöz, Sr. New Product Developer, 3M
How did you first know you wanted to pursue science? [I knew] all along actually. I was brainwashed to get an engineering/Science related degree and that was the belief that my mom had and imposed on me and according to her that was the only way to make living and progress in life.
What kinds of STEM-related things were you into as a teenager? Nothing specific really. I didn’t have the opportunities when I was growing up. I developed interest and started to have opportunities during my last years in college.
What female scientist do you most admire and why? Safiye Ali, she is the 1st Turkish Woman to become a medical doctor. I admired her because she was on the battle field during Balkan wars, 1st WW and many more wars to do her job despite the prejudice that woman do not work.
What would you say to young women to encourage them to pursue STEM? Doesn’t matter where you are coming from, what kind of opportunities you didn’t have when you grew up and where you grew up, there is always a way to do science and engineering anywhere in the world. AND they will pay for you to do that and travel while you’re studying. JUST DON’T GIVE UP.
Special thanks to our friends at DoSomething.org who helped us with this post. Don’t forget to submit for a chance to win a $10,000 scholarship from them. Click here for info.