Thursday, May 26, 2016

Balancing the Genders in STEM

This month’s blog posting is an excerpt from the Diversity Best Practices newsletter.

Balancing the Genders in STEM
By Lindsey Clark, Member Research Analyst, Diversity Best Practices
Publication Date: May 24, 2016

Women and minorities comprise 70 percent of college students but less than 45 percent of STEM degrees. Further, women make up only 26 percent of the computing workforce.

Where are the women in STEM fields? According to the National Girls Collaborative Project this is what the STEM landscape looks like for recent female graduates:
  • 39% of chemists and material scientists are women
  • 27.9% of environmental scientists and geoscientists are women
  • 15.6% of chemical engineers are women
  • 12.1% of civil engineers are women
  • 8.3% of electrical and electronics engineers are women
  • 17.2% of industrial engineers are women
  • 7.2% of mechanical engineers are women
What is the cause of this imbalance of gender in STEM and how can it be solved?

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) identified three major causes - social and environmental factors shaping girls’ achievements and interest in math and science; the college environment; and the continuing importance of bias, often operating at an unconscious level.

It will take an effort from society as a whole to stop the negative stereotypes about girls “innate” ability or lack thereof in mathematics and science. AAUW also reported that even a subtle reference to gender stereotypes has been shown to adversely affect girls’ math test performance.

Many DBP members have a commitment to changing the STEM demographics. For instance, Capital One hosts an annual Future Leaders Forum for Young Women. Capital One is also creating a pipeline of diverse talent through the community initiative called "Future Edge" which will invest $150 million over five years to build human capital via education and job skills training. Another DBP member, Cisco, has made major efforts in recruiting college age women by introducing visit days at corporate offices around the world and partnering with Green Light for Girls. This partnership gives young girls the opportunity to participate in free, hands-on workshops learning about programming and electronics. The women’s networks at both of these companies are leading these initiatives.

Some companies, such as Atlassian and Pinterest, are turning to internships to help change the gender geography of their industry and tap into the collegiate pipeline.

Atlassian focused on generating awareness of its internship opportunities among female applicants, ensuring that hiring panels for interns were gender diverse and providing unconscious bias training for all employees involved in the hiring process. The company was able to recruit an engineering intern class of 27 students, 44 percent of whom are women. Slight changes have had major results.

The Pinterest intern class is  53 percent women this year, up from 32 percent in 2015. What changes helped this shift? Decisions such as removing the names of candidates’ schools and prior companies from notes given to engineers throughout the interview process and adding reminders throughout the recruiting process about the importance of keeping an open mind.

Tweaking the hiring process does change the numbers. One could argue, why does it matter having more women in STEM fields? Besides the obvious benefit of diversity in the workplace, STEM jobs are among the highest paying.

The average salary for a tech professional is $96,370 annually.  Dice (a career site for technology professionals) recently reported on the top paying tech hubs. Besides Silicon Valley, the top regions are Baltimore/Washington, D.C with $102,873 (5% increase in average salary from 2015), Minneapolis with $100,379 (9% increase in average salary from 2015) and Portland, Oregon with $100,309 (10% increase in average salary from 2015).

By 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer science jobs available in the US according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Using the 2016 average salary – that means over $134 billion will be paid to members of the technology industry. If the status of women remains unchanged, women will be get only $35 billion of that figure.

According to the UN Women, at the current pace of change, it will take more than 80 years to achieve gender parity in economic participation. To help the industry that has the biggest strides to make, there needs to be a focus on increasing women in STEM from the start of their careers.

Welcome to the WIT Women’s Business Owners Special Interest Group (WBO SIG) blog!

We had an impressive turn out for the Women Business Owner’s first Spring into Action session "Communicating, Writing, and Winning: An Insider's Guide to the Proposal Process" on April 26th at Venable with Tim Gibson as the speaker. Our series this Spring is focused on adding resources and information to your business owner toolbox that will help you to grow and protect your ideas and venture.
The feedback for Tim’s session was great, and we appreciate him taking the time to share his insights about how to win Government funding to help grow your business.  We asked him for a summary of his presentation. He sent a few tips for proposal writing and included some additional information at the links below. First the tips:
  • Proposal writing is much like taking a written exam.  First, read the question.  If necessary reread it several times.  Answer the question (proposal), clearly, precisely, understandably, completely, and with as much detail as required.
  • The goal is for the readers to understand what you propose to do with as little time/difficulty on their part as possible.  A hard to understand proposal … is a hard to fund proposal. 
  • The proposal should flow logically from one concept to another.  Explain each concept “clearly, precisely, and understandably.”  If several concept/ideas/products will be put together into a component or deliverable, explain how this “integrating” will be done after explaining the individual parts. 
  • If there are technical or programmatic risks to what you are doing, address how you will deal with those risks to minimize the Government’s risk.  Ideally, move any risk reduction forward in the schedule; this avoids cataclysmic problems at the end.  Do not try to hide the risk or hope the customer “will not see it.” 
  • Never underestimate the power of a figure or diagram to explain something better than a page of text.  Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words.
  • Facts work better than hyperbole.  If your company is great or your employees are more highly trained, explain why this is true, don’t just claim it. 
  • Tailor your past performance section on every proposal, don’t just pull that section from the last proposal and recycle it. 
  • Write in “one voice.”  Even if several people are collaborating, have one person go through and make everything read like one person wrote it because a “one voice” proposal is easier to read and looks far more professional. 
  • Pay special attention to the Executive Summary. It is your “elevator speech” to get them interested and keep them reading.  If you wrote it early in the process, edit it last to ensure it reflects your final proposal and that it is as clear and compelling as possible.
  • Plan your time; avoid the dreaded weekender or all-nighter; and above all, good luck!
If you have questions, Tim would love to hear from you at  His web site is  He also shared a shorter version of his presentation, which is available at:
We look forward to seeing you at Session 2 of our WBO SIG Spring into Action series, Protecting Your Business: The Nuts and Bolts of Navigating Contracts & Beyond, on May 31st!
Arti and Robin
Arti Varanasi, Chair, WBO SIG
Robin McDougal, Vice Chair, WBO SIG

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Suzanne Campbell, Director, Federal Systems Engineering, VMware Public Sector

Suzanne Campbell is a recognized business and technology leader in the Federal IT community. Her 20+ years of experience span tenures at VMware, EMC, IBM and her own consulting practice. Suzanne has accomplished a strong track record of success with over 14 years in leadership positions. Suzanne has led teams ranging from 10 to 100+ employees, exceeding business growth objectives and delivering successful customer business and IT outcomes. Suzanne thrives leading and growing high performing solutions and engineering sales teams, supporting team and individual development, and cultivating collaborative partnerships internally and with clients and solution providers across the Federal ecosystem. Her background includes expertise in software development, systems engineering, program management, pre-sales systems and solutions engineering, business and financial operations. Suzanne holds a B.S in Computer Science from Virginia Tech and is a certified Project Management Professional.

YP team met with Suzanne for a short interview to get to know her, here is a summary.

Describe, anonymously or not, the best manager you know, and why they are so good at it.
Suzanne thinks that the key characteristic of highly skilled managers are being a listener, not a teller and an enabler without micromanaging so that one can bring the best out of employees.

What music are you grooving on?
Suzanne is currently listening lots of pop as that’s what her 13 year old and 15 year old are into in addition to GarageBand. She enjoys 80s, 90s music.

Any tips on staying energized when the going gets tough?
Reframe the situation. Listen to the inside message because chaos is opportunity and solving means growth.

What are some of your favorite vacation spots?
Suzanne has a couple. SF for its innovation and beauty, DC for being the most powerful city, Italy is her favorite vacation spot and she also enjoys diving in Maui. She used to be a scuba diver!

Maria Sasinowski, Microsoft

Maria Sasinowski started at Microsoft less than three years ago as their first Federal Sales college hire in the pre-sales engineering role.  She has since been a key player in Microsoft’s first cloud deals for the intelligence community and lead the Windows 10 migration sales strategy for DoD. In November, she became an Account Executive on the Army team managing 350,000 users across give major commands. She will be the chapter lead for Girls in Technology NoVa next year and has been a guest speaker for girls in STEM at high schools in Metro DC.

YP team met with Maria for a short interview to get to know her, here is a summary.

What music are you grooving on?
Maria is so into Brian Adams' new rock/pop album and is a big fan of Sia.

Describe, anonymously or not, the best manager you know, and why they are so good at it.
Maria had 3 managers within 4 years whom she is grateful for different aspects of their managerial skills.  She had a hardworking technical manager who would fight for the team, another sharp one with great diplomacy and political skills, one who is big on recognition and awards and finally one who would treat the team with fairness.

Any tips on staying energized when the going gets tough?
Maria calls her favorite customer to cheer up and get some positive energy. However, she suggests to remind ourselves what gets us excited and employ that.

You win the lottery for $10 million. What do you do?
Maria would invest it and would not tell anyone! She also added that a vacation would be another way to spend the money yet it’s not enough to quit her job.

Sonya Jain, Founder and President, eGlobalTech

Founder and President of eGlobalTech, Sonya Jain, a PMI certified individual, has 20 years of Information Technology (IT) and management-consulting experience working primarily in the Federal Government sector.  She founded eGlobalTech in 2004 with a vision of creating a family-friendly company based upon principles of the book Fish!: Bring a positive attitude to the job; be present; have fun; and make someone’s day! After more than a decade as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton, Sonya left to start eGlobalTech; determined to create a company that could be successful in providing management consulting services and be responsive to client needs.

 YP team met with Sonya for a short interview to get to know her, here is a summary.

What are some of your favorite vacation spots?
Sonya enjoys her vacation time in India especially Bangalore and Mumbai and Eastern Europe. She loves Croatia as well.

Any tips on staying energized when the going gets tough?
Sonya gets her energy and determination from her work. Whatever comes to her way, she remembers that she has a team to lead and run her telecommunications company and moves on.
Which of your special projects or undertakings are you most proud of?
Sonya is an out of the box thinker who spends time with brainstorming with people. One of her key accomplishments was when she prepared the federal government CIO for fedramp from planning to implementation.

Annelise Dubrovsky, Senior Manager, Product Development, Appian

Annelise Dubrovsky is a Senior Manager of Product Management at Appian, the world's leading Business Process Management company. Annelise has spent over ten years shaping, building, and delivering Appian’s product vision to more than 4 million users worldwide. She is the leader of a portfolio comprising five development teams, a co-author of Appian's patent-pending SAIL technology, and a frequent speaker to customers and prospects. 

Annelise is a long-standing champion of Appian corporate culture and an ambassador for women employees, serving as a mentor and board member of Appian's Women's Leadership Program.  She has a Bachelor's in Electrical Engineering from Princeton University and lives in Herndon with her husband and daughter where she enjoys cooking in her free time.

YP team met with Annelise for a short interview to get to know her, here is a summary.

Which of your special projects or undertakings are you most proud of?
Building software that serves people to make life easier for us! She gets her satisfaction from making an impact through software design. She's passionate about creating tools that would make people focus on their work.

What music are you grooving on?
Not so much music but lots of NPR.

Any tips on staying energized when the going gets tough?
Annelise acknowledges that there is always something challenging; stepping back, putting things into perspective as well as feeding off other people's enthusiasm is key.

Describe one of your favorite travel adventures.
Annelise wisely told us that any place could be an amazing vacation spot as long as you have good company. Well, she grew up at Indian Ocean, not much that can beat the precious Island, Mauritius!

Sophia Paros – Finding a Career by Recognizing Your Strengths

Sophia Paros is the Cyber Technical & Development Support Team Lead of the Cyber Security Workforce Technical Programs Branch supporting the Cyber Workforce Development Division of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA). In this role, she provides oversight and guidance to both government civilian and contract personnel to manage to cost, schedule and performance of the Information Assurance Support Environment (IASE) ‐ DoD’s primary source for Information Assurance training, policy & guidance, and Cyber Defender ‐ DISA’s continual cybersecurity awareness program. Sophia earned a dual‐Bachelors in Business and Information Systems from the Notre Dame of Maryland University, and a Masters of Science in Engineering Management from George Washington University. She enjoys spending time with her Big Fat Greek Family, traveling, and crafting.

On sexism in the workplace:
I actually started off as a software engineer, so that’s really male dominated, and I was often the token female in the room or on the project or in the development phase, and it was hard to gain the same level of respect that my male counterparts did.

Sometimes it’s not even about being smarter, but it’s definitely about being better, whether that’s being a better briefer or a better presenter or correspondent. A lot of government work requires a paper trail, so if you can’t be clear in your written correspondence, which a lot of people aren’t no matter what their gender is, that sets you a level above. How clear and concise can you be in the shortest amount of time? I’m sometimes a bit wordy because I’m trying to be clear, especially because a lot of the time I’m not in the office to field questions.

On charting a path in IT:
I kind of fell into IT by accident and I learned a lot about myself and the way I learn in undergrad. I went in pre-law because I’m a great debater but it was too much reading and I learned that I don’t have great reading comprehension. And I’m fluent in Greek so I was also going to major in Spanish thinking I could work at an embassy or something. And then I took a computer class and just kind of fell in love with it. And I excelled at it because all of my work in undergrad was very project oriented, so in order for me to get a grade I had to do something. It wasn’t just reading and taking a test, I actually had to punch out code. I’m very detail-oriented and it was very practical so it was a natural fit for me. I wrote code for 13 years but gradually started to get out of it because once you’re good at it, it’s hard to grow, aside from team leader. I had to veer from development to do more project management. But without having the baseline knowledge of some of the IT systems, I don’t think I’d be as successful as a project manager because I can still guide my team and understand the technicalities. I often joke that I can translate “geek speak” to English. So to the non-tech person, I can translate requirements and analysis, and then back to the team of which piece of code or which tool.

On contracting versus government work first:
It’s definitely helpful to do contractor work first because you get to see a different side of the government. From a contractor’s point-of-view, you get assigned the work but you don’t have that much of a voice, depending on your government lead. But you’re so deep within what you have to do to accomplish the mission that you get that level of experience and you understand the contractor’s perspective. I transitioned directly into a project manager role when I moved to the government, so I had a very good understanding of how to manage the contract side, the FTEs, the hours and the labor – the billing aspect of it. But I actually had a voice being on the government side.

On advice to women graduating from college, what work to look for and what to do in those positions:
I still tell my family that I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I have just always chosen opportunities for myself that I felt comfortable in, so I always liked what I was doing. So if your undergrad is in one area and you end up finding a job in another, fall into something you enjoy doing or enjoy learning from, because every experience should be a learning experience for your next position.

On problem-solving:
You can’t take things personally. And as you get higher up, your problems shift and a lot of the problems become communication in general. I always try to tell myself and my team that you have to listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply. When you understand what’s going on and everyone feels heard, you can collaborate better.

What advice would you give to women graduating from college, what work to look for and what to do in those positions:
If you’re in technology, young women should stay as technical as possible for as long as possible. Look at the technology first, the technological opportunity, instead of the money. Do something that is going to enrich your career opportunities because women are still frequently attracted to non-technical roles. The more technical your chops are, the better you can understand things. Those building blocks are so important for later in your career.

How do you face problems in the workplace?
Don’t get emotional, that’s the first thing I’d say. Understand that everyone’s there to get a job done and no one wants to see you fail. Try to solve the problem yourself first and then turn to someone else for help. But there are some things that you may just have to figure out yourself, and the nice thing nowadays is that you can google almost anything, so even if you work in a one-person shop, you can search for a solution.