CWiT at the Women in STEM Summit

Women in STEM summit- the room

As part of our ongoing partnership with iQuest, we were delighted to support the inaugural Women in STEM summit in Croke Park on the 30th March 2022. We were represented by our two of our leadership commitee: Liana Tomescu (Microsoft) who is one of our Early Careers co-leads and Eleonore Roy (Dell Technologies) who is our Events and Networking Lead. Here are the key take-aways from the event:

Find your sponsor      

Deborah Threadgold (IBM) opened the day by sharing her own experience of how she moved up the ranks to become General Manager for IBM Ireland. She spoke about how crucial it was that she received amazing support from one of her earliest mentors, and that he was able to sponsor her further education. The element of sponsorship in the talk was memorable both for its impact on Deborah’s career but also for its effect in terms of the confidence boost it gave her. Another speaker later in the conference, also repeated that point about sponsorship, adding that it’s often best to look for sponsorship in a person that’s just above you, meaning at the next level from you, rather than from someone who’s many years ahead of you in their career.

Be a trailblazer  

There was a panel discussion with four speakers titled “Trailblazers leading the way in STEM teaching and learning”. They discussed the benefit of overturning outdated stereotypes and ensuring that young girls know that a career in STEM is a viable career path for them. Lisa Cusack (A3330 Pilot at Aer Lingus) talked about her experience of going to primary schools in her pilot’s uniform and getting the school children to try to guess what she does for a living based on her outfit. Most often, the answer she received was a secretary, air hostess, etc- careers typically known for their high rates of female representation. When she explained to the children that she is a pilot, the boys would quickly protest: “no way, girls can’t be pilots!”. Then Lisa would show them that it’s possible for women to be pilots, engineers and all other kinds of technical jobs through sharing her own story and leading a series of games with them. By the end of the session, she would completely open their minds to what women are capable of. Lisa’s example shows the possibility of changing perspectives from a young age, so that children don’t develop limited gender-based assumptions. That’s why we’re passionate about initiatives like Digital Futures and Tech We Can.

Different people, different contexts  

In the panel discussion of the rising stars of STEM, the topic of privilege and opportunities came up. Sarah Kate Sweeney talked about how her engineer father promoted her curious nature about the world around her, and when it came to choosing what to study at third level, he encouraged her to study physics. Sarah’s experience is different to what medical student Ao Sasame has come across with her non-profit AccessMed Ireland. When she became a medical student, Ao and her fellow students noticed that disadvantaged secondary school students didn’t have the same parental support and had limited access to extra classes for the entrance exam required to studying medicine. That’s when she created AccessMed Ireland to bridge that gap and provide these lessons to students. The importance of support from the people around you can’t be underestimated, and organisations like AccessMed and CWiT help with this.

Start with yourself

Breda McCague’s session about reprogramming the self-belief code was a talk focused on improving confidence in the self. She asked the audience to think about the question “What do you think you deserve?” and listed several methods of expanding worldviews, such as creating vision boards and having three forms of personal journals: a success journal for gratitude, an untangling journal for working things out, and a planning journal for strategising. While much of the conference centred on improvements for the systemic challenges around gender and STEM, Breda’s talk was focused on the self, with the premise that making waves starts with each individual.

Another speaker, Fiona Edwards, also spoke and she had the fantastic example of using engineering to improve the world. Via her ApisProtect startup, she uses machine learning to improve the success of bee-keeping, in terms of the honey produced, the bees and the plants they pollinate, which has a huge impact on many parts of the food industry.

The inaugural Women in STEM conference was as enlightening as it was inspirational, and it was a joy to be able to represent CWIT at it.

As we continue our partnership with iQuest, we look forward to attending the upcoming annual CIO & IT Leaders Summit 2022 which is taking place on June 28th in Croke Park. The summit will balance the strategic and tactical by digging into leading CIO’s lessons learned from the IT response to COVID-19 and will deliver insights on how they plan to support enterprise recovery. Get in touch with events@cwit.ie to find out how our benefits for our members wishing to attend this event.  

Written by Liana Tomescu.

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