Spotlight On Women in STEM Leadership

Patricia Malone, interim executive director, School of Professional Development and executive director, Center for Corporate Education at Stony Brook University discusses with College Planning & Management the importance of encouraging women into leadership roles and how colleges and universities can play a part in supporting gender equality in STEM.

While women make up half of the total workforce in the U.S., they only make up 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce, according to the National Girls Collaborative Project. Yet, women constitute 50.3 percent of science and engineering degrees. Somewhere between their college education and their career, women are leaving STEM. Stony Brook University’s Center for Corporate Education in Stony Brook, NY, is attempting to redress the gender disparity in the workforce and the attrition of women from STEM fields through their Women in STEM Leadership Program. The three-day program provides current and future STEM leaders the tools and connections that women need to advance their science and engineering careers. Patricia Malone, interim executive director, School of Professional Development and executive director, Center for Corporate Education at Stony Brook University discusses with College Planning & Management the importance of encouraging women into leadership roles and how colleges and universities can play a part in supporting gender equality in STEM.

Why is it important to have women in leadership roles in STEM fields?
Supporting women in leadership roles is important in all fields; however, it is especially critical in STEM because of the gender disparity that currently exists. Organizations that engage women leaders report greater creativity and innovation. There is an economic imperative to be more inclusive. Demographic shifts are creating talent gaps across many sectors. We need a focused and dedicated effort to offer women in STEM leadership development and opportunities if we are to attain and sustain a viable workforce in these fields.

What role can colleges and universities play in furthering gender equity in STEM?
Colleges and universities play a large role in engaging young women in mentorship initiatives and collaborations with elementary, middle, and high school; organizations such as the Girls Scouts; and various other groups supporting young girls and women in the STEM. Through these collaborations, colleges and universities can continue to impact the increasing numbers of women in the STEM fields. Successful programs that foster diversity and inclusion can continue to increase the number of women entering these fields. With greater numbers, we will have a more sustainable female workforce. In addition to focused programs, educational institutions can create an environment that promotes inclusivity and respect as modeled by faculty, administration, staff, and students.

What advice can you offer other institutions interested in developing similar programs to Stony Brook University’s Women in STEM Leadership Program?
At Stony Brook University, we have responded to the need for organizations to grow and retain talent by developing a very robust executive development program. As an institution heavily engaged in the STEM fields, developing a Women in STEM Leadership Program was a natural extension of our center’s focus. Our current program focuses on participants with at least seven years of experience in STEM. There is also a great need for programs designed for emerging women in STEM, and we are spearheading an Emerging Leaders Program specifically designed for graduate students and women entering the workforce.

Institutions seeking to develop new programs in this area can assess the needs of the communities and learners they serve and align their school’s particular strengths such as healthcare, technology, engineering, social sciences, or other areas with relevant STEM programs. They can team up with community and technology groups to support mutual efforts. Many public/private partnerships promote shared resources and objectives.

Stony Brook University will be holding their second Women in STEM Leadership Program in April.

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