It is a great opportunity to celebrate Woman day by sharing the story of InnovaCreate founder, Lorena Padro Cortes. It will provide a guidance of the essential elements to empower any woman in STEM careers.
STEM careers are job opportunities associated with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This professional track has great influence and contribution in the development and innovation of new product, system and services in the healthcare, agriculture, food, manufacturing industries and other STEM applications. The presence of woman as a STEM professional is necessary giving a new perspective for better human advancement.
Having kids (1), gender bias (2) , and treatment in gender stereotypical ways (3) are considered some of the challenges for a woman that will pursue a STEM career. Specially knowing the varieties of roles assume by a women in our society.
These 5 essential elements can help you overcome potential challenges in your career journey as a STEM woman professional . It was validated by other colleagues and with personal experience during the completion of a PhD in Chemical Engineering with 3 kids and a husband. I believe you can do it by planning, acting and applying these elements to climb mountains and reach the stars .
Boost your STEM education and celebrate each development stage
The education is crucial to move forward in any job specially for a STEM career. You may start with a bachelor degree and continue with graduate studies (e.g. Master, PhD, MD, MD-PhD). My believe of pursuing a successful STEM career was promoted by small and simple science home experiments, and by having a role model, my mom, during my scientific high school research. My science curiosity was strengthen every day with family discussion about life science at home with toys and games (4).
The interaction with process development and PhD professional during my work experience help me to understand the impact of STEM career and education in a PhD level. It provides me the opportunity to improve in-process product quality by evaluating electroless & electroplating capabilities; and applying the scientific method as a tool for decision making.
The attitude that has boost my career constantly is always being open to learn something new each day, each month and each year. Expanding your education with work experience in diverse laboratories, different industries and multiple functional projects will generate a unique career pathway.
It was extraordinary to lead a multifunctional team (chemist, engineers, technicians, operators, planners, quality specialist) after making a dissertation specialized in biosensors, biomaterials and biomedical engineering. The skills obtained during the PhD program facilitated the application of science and engineer to solve problems and find solutions. It gave me a better understanding of how to accelerate the technology and knowledge transfer during the New Products/Processes/Technology Introduction for glucose monitoring system, insulin delivery system and combinational product manufacturing. InnovaCreate has been a platform for the development of CRANEeH (5), LMS Cloud Integrations (6), and optimize manufacturing processes to improve productivity and product quality.
It is critical to continue with your curriculum and include additional certifications during the skills and competencies development. My opportunities of being qualified as a Professional Engineering, ASQ Black Belt (7), and Innovation & Entrepreneur Certifications (8) confirmed my developmental journey by others professional peer groups. Evaluating alternatives for remote study, self-pace studies and always considering walking by the hand of my family; help me to find my unique way to achieve great professional goals. Always with smart and achievable goals considering my personal stage of living as a proud and dreamer woman. InnovaCreate gave me the opportunity to develop competencies for strategic and financial portfolio management, creativity, problem solution and decision making. It is important to know in a start up you have to be creative for the generation of competitive business results with less budget and less resources. It is a great opportunity to think out of the box.
Clearly, it is meaningful to complete your developmental goals and always celebrate your achievements. (9) The celebration can be as simple as a family dinner. This personal and family recognition will help you get prepare and reserve energy for your next professional challenge.
Indeed, this boost will continue improving your performance; increasing your trust in your career pathway; and increasing your motivation with your likelihood of success.
Mentor and provide growing opportunities to other women
Education will help you build basic skills for job performance. The mentoring process will give you support, guidance and can facilitate your transition of being a student to become a professional. It will guide you on how to apply the college tools. The ability of a mentor to share their knowledge, skills and experience supporting your career learning process have the benefit for the organization to achieve individual and business goals. Additionally, the mentor can become your career sponsor and advocate in your career growth. Mentors usually know similar projects, and business historical results that will turn into your baseline for problem solving, decision making, and solution development. (9), (10)
Being a mentor during my PhD program, help me understand how the advise and training of an expert can make a difference in your day to day performance. During my job, I was always looking for a mentor for technical discussions, analytical evaluations, solution gathering and other support during the on-boarding process. After validating my experience in the assigned projects, I became a mentor for other professionals. Some of my mentoring topics were statistics, validation, DMAIC methodology, lean six sigma, formulation, sensor technology, biomaterials, polymers, methods development, process design and others. My believe of making a organizational transformation with mentoring, sponsoring and coaching give me the opportunity to build and expand a mentoring program across multiple sites and countries in a multinational organization. Now, I advocate for the creation of a new InnovaCreate Mentoring and Coaching Program as part of Woman Day Celebration.
It is decisive creating opportunities for other woman career advancement. These opportunities should include flexible work policies, child support programs and other tools to overcome challenges during the educational and growth process for STEM woman career, It is observed a significant believe of woman contribution for substantive change as they achieve senior leadership position. (11) Woman leaders are making a difference in the the social, economic, cultural, and political environments. The actions of mentoring and giving senior leader position to women give us with the chance of promoting transformation and paying forward to those that has been committed in our career growth. Let us support each other as woman leaders.
Invest in woman initiatives and connect with organization to enhance woman potential
Multinational organizations are providing policies to sustain women workforce and creating a workspace with more time for the caregiving responsibilities. (10) Moreover, it was observed a high percentage of woman leaving their job or looking for jobs with less responsibilities or part time jobs after the first child. (10) Every woman in STEM career will also like to have additional time for family responsibilities and great life satisfaction. (4)
For this reason, it has been observed a trending of investing in woman entrepreneurship training and new women ideas. It allow woman to explore new opportunities and get a job in alignment with a lifecycle stage of having babies, growing their kids and supporting their child education. The participation as a STEM woman candidate in these initiatives produce inspiration, give access to capital, and improve networking.
Minorities initiatives made a difference in my career development as an engineer, scientist and entrepreneur. I am thankful of participating in Alliance for Graduate Education and Professoriate (AGEP), Woman Leadership at Johnson & Johnson, HOLA Global Chapter at Johnson & Johnson, and American Chemical Engineering (AICHE) Hispanic Chapter . It provide me with a platform to discuss diversity and inclusion for learning and application in leadership development initiatives and career job strategy for individual and leaders roles.
Investing in woman education and ideas is also looking to reduce gender pay gap; giving women opportunities to create jobs & roles for family caring with better salary opportunities. (12)
Collaborate and network for research or exporting business advancement
Collaboration must be with different groups, professionals savvy, and expertise at your local area and globally.
During our Customer Discovery for CRANEeH product and service development the collaboration allow us to reach more than 200 physicians, nurses, patients and caregivers. The collaboration give us access to hospitals, medical office in Puerto Rico, New York and Florida. Comercio y Exportacion facilitated the environment to make business out of Puerto Rico with prestige organizations. You should continue with this collaboration increasing your business leads and potentially conversion of your leads to customers.
It was an honored to be an alumni of NASA Space Grant, Startup Puerto Rico, ICorps Puerto Rico, ELabNYC, Stanford Rebuild, and Pre18, The collaboration of this program provide a platform to continue with CRANEeH development.
Similarly, the likelihood to find new contracts and bigger opportunities will increase by getting partnership agreement to strengthen your business capabilities. Federal opportunities can increase your business profit. Moreover partnership with organization with additional credentials will allow you to start building the historical federal project management to reach the size of business you ever dream. Just be patient and keep moving forward.
Balance your family and personal time
As you keep walking in your career as a happy woman and wife, you need to balance your professional growth with you personal and family time. Your career will continue if you plan for the birth of a child, the breast feeding of your children and caregiving family needs. I usually have less courses by semester to be available to meet all quarterly objectives. The support network of my family and friends was indispensable to continue with my career goal. I remember having a test with a breast feeding break during the half period of the Transport Phenomenal Test. My husband was in the room beside the test room to allow me complete this course requirement after two weeks of birth.
I hope by sharing my story you can believe passion, perseverance and persistence will allow you complete a STEM career by the hand of your family. It is important you make a reflection of the above mentioned elements and continue with your STEM career pathway.
Remember to find your mentor and coach. You can also confirm a sponsor having an influence in your career strategy and next level position.
Get inspired with those organizations looking for equity rather than equality to ensure minority opportunities for career development. It will provide equity and diversity to increase the likelihood of success for a woman in the STEM careers. We know this is a global responsibility (13) to accelerate innovation in multiple human demands. We should be part of this change, today.
InnovaCreate is accelerating this transformation with the InnovaCreate Mentoring and Coaching Program. Join us reinforcing woman leaders to take control of their own professional development.
Can you share with us how you are making a difference in the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women?