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Industry panel shares career advice, inspiration for women STEM students

Pete Shooner | Apr 11, 2016
SWE panel

Industry panel shares career advice, inspiration for women STEM students

Pete Shooner | Apr 11, 2016

More than 70 Ohio University students – women and men – gathered in Porter Hall Wednesday evening to tap the wisdom of four experienced women, who shared their advice for navigating the traditionally male-dominated STEM fields. The Ohio University student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), the American Association of University Women, Women in Information and Telecommunication Systems, Women in Information Systems, and the Scripps Diversity Committee hosted.

STEM advocate and OHIO alumna JJ DiGeronimo, BSCIS ’95, kicked things off with a short talk covering what she said are the key elements young women need to develop successful careers in a STEM field. She began by challenging the student audience to answer one question: “What do you want your career to look like?”

“It’s really important to articulate what you envision, and then decide how you’re going to get there,” said DiGeronimo, who coaches individuals and corporations on recruiting and retaining women employees through her consulting firm Tech Savvy Women.

Among other tips, DiGeronimo stressed how self-efficacy, or believing in your own abilities, is important to getting the job you want and being happy in that role.

“One of the things that really determines whether people stay in a job or leave is that they not only have a vision of where they want to go, but they believe they can achieve it,” DiGeronimo said.

SWE president and civil engineering junior Jennah Rawahneh said DiGeronimo’s explanation of self-efficacy stood out as one of the most valuable takeaways.

“It's very important. JJ outlined it very well for the group. Her overall persona displayed confidence and self-efficacy -- and seeing someone live what they preach was also really important for me personally,” Rawahneh said.

A panel comprising alumna Kristin Lowry, BSCIS ’95, associate vice president for IT engineering at Nationwide Insurance; Christine Copa, technology consultant at Accenture; and Kim Thompson, an environmental and plant biology lecturer at OHIO, then joined DiGeronimo to share their perspectives and take questions from the audience.

When asked how they overcame obstacles that women face in their career paths, Lowry said that support from her professional networks and sponsors was essential to her own success.

“I think it’s good to know who will advocate for you. You’ll find males and females, no matter what gender you are, who will support you, and you’ll also find women who don’t support the women in this field, and that’s unfortunate,” Lowry said. “So it’s very important for both men and women to support each other.”

Copa explained that while women in certain industries face more challenges than others, she feels the historical inequalities are generally fading and opportunities for women are steadily progressing overall.

“The team I work with is extremely young, so we have a little different mindset for things like this, and I think it’s something that will continue to change over the years.” Copa said.