I love that the environment in today’s workplace is open to empowering women. We have a long way to go, but “what can be” looks drastically different than it did even a few short years ago.
A bit on me: Today, I am the Chief Technologist for Good Housekeeping (GH), a beloved brand that has been around for over 130 years. Currently, it serves over 30 million readers a month. My role is overseeing product testing for the six labs at the GH Institute. Thanks to an amazing group of (mostly female) scientists and engineers, we test the latest and greatest consumer goods and services in the beauty, textiles, home and kitchen appliances, emerging tech, toys, and even automobile arenas. We look not only at the performance of products, but at how well they address the needs and lifestyles of women, and how they’ll work in their lives. Our aim is to take the hassle out of buying and using products so our readers can spend more time living and doing the things they love.
As my family owned and operated a consumer electronics business for nearly 70 years, I come from a long line of technologists. My interest in gadgets started at a very young age and to this day I am still an avid adopter of technology in my personal life. Now I get paid to do what I love! I was fortunate that GH was looking for a mechanical engineer (my educational background) who loved tech and was comfortable communicating about it and I definitely fit the bill!
As a female engineer I do what I can to help the next generation of future STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professionals feel empowered and recognize the diverse opportunities available to them. Who would have thought that as a mechanical engineer I would have the opportunity to work at a magazine, and act as one of its brand ambassadors? I certainly didn’t!
I am also an expectant mother. While I have always prided myself on being an advocate for young girls and women, I can now say I have an emotional connection to building the next generation of powerhouse women.
Here are a few of the takeaways I think would be helpful in promoting the next generation of women in STEM.
If you are already in a STEM-related career, I ask that you:
Share your story. It’s important to tell your unique narrative. There is a wide range of opportunities available within the “tech” industry and you can help change perceptions if your personal story lies outside of the norm. And speak up about your passions. It’s important to share your opinions, your experiences, and your thoughts. What starts off as a whisper can become a fevered pitch. Every movement has to start somewhere and you can initiate one by supporting a cause you believe in.
Encourage those around you to do their parts to help reach gender equality. Everyone can do something to help create more encouraging educational and professional ecosystems. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, mentor, community member, or professional, help support the cause. And this goes for both men and women. Women need to be more supportive of other women. They need to stop competing with one another, and support and bring along other women on their way up. We need more engagement from men, too. If you’re in the position to do so, whether male or female, offer mentorship, sponsorship or another form of advocacy, and continue to help recruit and promote women.
Recognize that diversity allows for better end products. While it’s sometimes easier in the short-term to have like-minded people on your team, you’ll have a more successful end product if you work with a more diverse group. Having people of varied backgrounds, with differing opinions and perspectives, provides an alternative or more holistic approach to solving a problem. And once you hire a diverse staff, make sure to make everyone feel welcome and provide an environment in which people want to stay and grow.
If you’re considering a career in a STEM discipline:
Use the vast resources out there! While I have yet to find a perfect portal for all of the resources available, there is an abundance of information on just about any tech discipline in which you’re interested.
Give, and then maybe get down the line. I think it’s important to create relationships with individuals that aren’t based on what they can do for you. Individuals are way more inclined to help you in return if they realize you aren’t one-sided. By not being greedy, you set the groundwork for a mutually beneficial relationship.
You can be what you can’t see, but it’s not easy. The expression made famous by the White House Project’s Marie Wilson, “You can’t be what you can’t see” is one that I hear a lot. And for the most part I agree that having role models and seeing other people like yourself in a desired position or field can inspire and motivate you to join and succeed. But, I don’t think that not seeing someone who shares your ethnicity, race, or background in a job that you’re aiming for, should hold you back Someone has to come first, so why be restricted by the status quo? I have gotten where I am in my career by molding my position into one that speaks to my strengths and advances the GH brand and Hearst forward.
As a female engineer, it is Rachel’s goal promote an environment in which women of all ages can excel. Rachel is the Chief Technologist for the Good Housekeeping Institute and Director of the Institute's Engineering Department. Rachel has had the opportunity to evaluate thousands of products [...]