Women Leading Tech and Innovation – D Magazine

From 2023
Women occupy approximately 28% of the STEM workforce and, on average, make 83 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. At first glance, these numbers are disappointing, but they are consistently improving as more young women study STEM in college and pursue careers where their expertise is rewarded with competitive pay. And Dallas is leading the way. This progress is due, in large part, to forward-thinking companies that have made it a priority to attract and promote women in technology.
Companies that want to provide more opportunities for women in STEM and recruit the best in the industry understand that fostering a passion for STEM starts early—elementary-age to be exact. Whether through their own programs or by joining outside opportunities, they are reaching out to young women and girls in the community and offering their expertise to either pique their interest in STEM or to help them make their way through the ranks. 
One local opportunity where girls can pursue STEM-related interests is Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ STEM Center of Excellence, a 92-acre, $15 million hub of inspiration. A sprawling living laboratory in South Dallas, it is the first of its kind in the United States and provides year-round opportunities in robotics, computer coding, botany, chemistry, and more. Through the STEM Center of Excellence, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas is feeding the STEM workforce pipeline to meet the urgent need for female voices, engagement, and leadership in the fastest growing sector of the U.S. economy.
Jennifer Makins was a classroom teacher for 20 years before becoming executive director for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas STEM Center of Excellence. She says she saw first-hand what can happen if girls don’t have an advocate in their corner encouraging them in math and science. They risk falling behind, or not trying at all. “We are continuing our strategic work to solve the impending workforce gap,” Makins says. “We provide access to hands-on, real-world learning opportunities that engage and excite them. These girls will go back into their classrooms and choose STEM opportunities in school and beyond. Our goal is to give them the confidence to raise their hands and solve the math problem. More than 50% of girls don’t consider a career in STEM, and we need to better understand why. We can help girls understand that, while STEM is a challenging field, they are the key to solving the world’s problems.”
Diversity in the executive population is a top priority at Capital One, and efforts to propel women into influential roles are coming to fruition. Women represent 50% of the workforce at Capital One and the company continues to invest in programs and policies that provide opportunities for women to expand professionally and thrive personally.
Examples at Capital One include several Business Resource Groups (BRGs) committed to developing the next generation of women leaders. They include the Women in Tech BRG which creates a space for women to see and reach leadership opportunities in tech, the Equality Allies program which raises awareness of the inequalities that women and underrepresented groups face in tech, and the empowHER BRG which creates a space for female associates to obtain support and advice while working together for the advancement of women both in and outside of the company. Recognizing the challenges women face in the technology industry, Capital One established the Women in Tech BRG to help elevate and support women technologists through mentoring, speaker training, skill building, and community partnerships. This led to the launch of Blacks in Tech and Hispanics in Tech. 
In addition, Capital One has formed deep external partnerships with DFW*Alliance of Technology and Women, National Society of Black Engineers, Per Scholas, Year Up, Women Who Code, Black Girls Who Code, AnitaB.org Institute, IT Senior Management Forum, and the Hispanic IT Executive Council. Local partnerships include WEDallas, Girls Inc., Bot Camp, and Girl Scouting in a School Day Dallas. Capital One understands that having more women in tech means encouraging girls in STEM at an early age.
“As I traverse the city, I’ve found that Dallas-based organizations are being intentional in including women in STEM in their workforce in ways that we have not seen historically. Indeed, we are witnessing a time where there are leadership development programs, scholarships, mentoring opportunities and support networks that are committed to building a pipeline of women in STEM,” says Marissa Horne, vice president of technology strategy and governance. “I think the Dallas-Fort Worth region has a unique opportunity to become a leading innovation hub across STEM domains, especially technology. Leveraging the power of private enterprise and university partnerships, this region has the ingredients to elevate its technology ecosystem. As this occurs, and we move further along the innovation curve, women must play an integral role in bringing this reality to life.”
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Within the company and throughout the community, Slalom remains a standout when it comes to supporting women in STEM. With over 14,000 employees across the globe—500 in Dallas-Fort Worth—women comprise a significant portion of the team and are making impactful contributions in cloud development, mobile application development, product engineering, coding, and data analytics. “There has been an intentional effort and focus to have women leaders across all levels in Slalom, from associate consultants to general manager,” says Sara Eaton, managing director. “We have focused our efforts on recruiting and retaining women in these STEM roles and are constantly looking for opportunities to give back.”
Slalom sponsors multiple employee resource groups within the company to help build inclusivity, celebrate diversity, and foster belonging. This group develops Slalom women’s technical and business skills, creates an inclusive and thriving community of technical thought leaders, and fosters external relationships with partners and organizations, such as Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, Girls Who Code, and Black Girls Code. These groups also work to influence and support the pipeline of school-aged girls in the STEM field, increase representation of women in technology, and teach classes at UTD to generate excitement about STEM. “We work to promote STEM careers and skill-building and to help students find new opportunities,” Eaton says. “We want girls and young women to say, ‘I can see myself in this space.’”
These efforts aren’t unnoticed. Eaton recently won a Women in Tech award from the Dallas Business Journal, and Slalom received a Women Leaders in Technology award from Consulting magazine. Slalom is visible across the country as women leaders have a presence at national STEM conferences. Says Eaton, “Slalom utilizes these networking opportunities to hire, and we are always open to looking at different ways for women in STEM to be successful.”
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Thomson Reuters is one of the world’s most trusted providers of answers, helping professionals make confident decisions and run better businesses. Thomson Reuters’ customers operate in complex arenas that move society forward and face increasing complexity as regulation and technology disrupt every industry. Thomson Reuters has made great strides toward increasing its gender diversity, particularly within leadership roles. Thomson Reuters aspires to have 45% representation of women in senior leadership throughout its company by the end of 2022. In addition to partnering with nonprofits to create programming and opportunities that encourage girls to become involved in STEM programs, the company also partners with AnitaB.org, a nonprofit social enterprise inciting a movement to achieve intersectional equity in the global technical workforce by 2025. AnitaB.org/365 programs empower women and under-tapped communities in technical fields, guide the organizations that employ them, and support the academic institutions training the next generation. In partnership with AnitaB.org, Thomson Reuters sponsors the annual Grace Hopper Celebration, the largest conference in the world for women in technology. “In addition to these outstanding organizations, we at Thomson Reuters have developed a partnership with various similar community partners such as Sci Tech Discovery Center, Dallas Alliance of Women in Technology, and the Dallas Independent School District’s Pathways to Technology Program,” says Kelsey Jones, community relations coordinator at Thomson Reuters. “These organizations assist us with providing young women the opportunity to learn first-hand about the world of STEM and provide these young and eager students with the soft and technical skills needed to embark on their career journey into STEM. One of our main goals is to allow girls in low-income areas the exposure to STEM opportunities and to give them the start into a career that will make a lasting impact on not only their lives but the lives of their families and future generations to come.”
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Since 2020, Sandra McNeil has been responsible for the 24/7 site operation of more than 4,000 associates at Amazon’s robotic sortable fulfillment center – FTW6.  She came to Amazon after working 24 years in various STEM fields in the automotive manufacturing industry, most notably as the manufacturing chief engineer of the 2020 mid-engine Corvette program. Before that, she was a first-generation graduate, earning her electrical engineering degree from OSU, followed by an M.B.A. from the University of Dallas.
 McNeil is just as focused on promoting women in STEM within Amazon as she is throughout the community. Amazon is a presenting sponsor for the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas Leadership Institute, which empowers middle and high school girls to explore STEM education and careers. Additionally, through the Amazon Future Engineer program, Amazon provides computer science curriculum to students at elementary schools in Dallas ISD, offers virtual fulfillment center tours to spotlight the computer science skills needed to work in operations, and provides scholarships to students from underserved communities who plan to study computer science or a related field in college. The scholarship also includes a paid internship at Amazon.  
McNeil has a passion for promoting diversity in STEM and is a board member of the Women in Manufacturing National Trade Association and volunteers to support organizations focused on promoting inclusion and cultivating under-represented talent in STEM. “There is so much Amazon does to support women,” she says. “It’s all about empowerment—increasing the capacity of women to make choices to transform their careers.”
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Revision skincare’s award-winning products are backed by scientific rigor, published in peer-reviewed journals, and well-respected among physician partners. A stellar executive leadership team, combined with scientifically and clinically substantiated products, enables the company to attract top talent outside, and within, STEM. The research and clinical development department team is actively networking and engaged across several scientific communities. “Revision Skincare practices ‘better science,’ which differentiates us from other skincare brands,” says Alisar Zahr, PhD, director of clinical research and clinical development. “When we formulate, not only do we have a formulation philosophy, but we have guidelines on how to achieve an efficacious and highly tolerable product. Our team spends substantial time researching new technologies, speaking with innovative suppliers and scientists across multiple industries, and discussing with consultants globally.”
Revision Skincare promotes and fosters growth of women in STEM throughout the country, as well as within the company, through a robust mentorship program. Revision Skincare offers summer internship opportunities and has created a strategic partnership with universities to present the science of skincare to students, as cosmetic science is a field not often considered among STEM majors. “Having a STEM degree allows you to curate your career path,” Dr. Zahr says. “Generally, women in STEM want to help others and can become great lifelong mentors.”
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The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) celebrates women in STEM. Today, UT Dallas is an internationally ranked research institution, and these two leaders from the two largest schools—the Naveen Jindal School of Management and Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science—are a critical part of that. They set expectations and standards of equity and inclusivity to shift the narrative of women in STEM to a place of belonging. The University’s roots go back to the 1960s when three founders of Texas Instruments—Eugene McDermott, Erik Jonsson, and Cecil Green—established UT Dallas as a source of advanced research. The legacy of innovation with a commitment to entrepreneurship is evident through partnerships with Blackstone LaunchPad and the Capital Factory, which have helped produce 536 startup companies in five years.             UT Dallas continues to build a future as bright as its beginnings as it continues to cultivate the next generation of thought leaders, innovators and change makers.
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“Exposing girls to the cutting-edge of science creates comfort with the subject. Girls should learn early that they don’t have to be perfect. In fact, it’s good to get a little messy when trying new things, and it is OK to fail and try again.”
“If you believe in yourself and are willling to work hard, you can learn just about anything. Stay engaged in science and math in school, which will open the door to so many opportunities. Find a role in the STEM field that aligns with your passion. Build your network and reach out to organizations that support women in STEM—there are no shortages of resource groups.”
“Look for someone further along in your journey who can be a mentor, sponsor, and advocate—but who will also challenge you to push yourself harder. Others will want to travel this road, so bring them along. We all bring a different perspective and add another voice in the room.”
“Fight against the forces that tell you that math is hard, or science isn’t for girls. Instead, lean into the classes that push you to think differently, to solve problems in ways that you haven’t before, and that stretch your creativity.” 
“Women nurture with compassion while tackling challenges with skillful strategy. These are balancing characteristics in the STEM world that are even more important with the rise of Artificial Intelligence and reliance on tech to carryout business. Girls and youth in general need to know there is a place for them in the STEM world.” 
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