Where Are The Women: How Far Does STEM Reach Before It Hits the Glass Ceiling?

Seems like a redundant headline, one that you have certainly heard before.  Annoying and infuriating, on multiple levels, that it keeps popping up, right…? However, Donna Strickland, has been in the news as of late.  Who? What? Why? Donna Strickland, physicist, was just awarded a Nobel Prize. She is only the 3rd woman to receive a Nobel Prize in physics (following Marie Curie in 1903 and Maria Goeppert-Mayer in 1963).

Currently, Strickland’s name, or rather the lack of familiarity with it, is a subject of discussion more so than her achievement and intelligence. It is 2018 and she did not have a Wikipedia page. Attempts were made to submit one for her, but denied, as Wikipedia did not deem her notable enough prior to becoming a Nobel Laureate. Let’s pause for a moment and reflect just who you have researched and read about on Wikipedia…. Exactly.

STEM was introduced in 2001, which means that children and adolescents who were part of its inception  are now either a part of the workforce or academia. Once again, I ask, “where are the women?”. We have witnessed sharp educational shifts with Common Core curriculum and STEM initiatives, but the percentages of women in these fields do not align with the priority these skills and studies are given in our education system. The numbers vary depending upon position, country, and sector, but women account for approximately 20% of the workforce in computer science and technology.

Not surprisingly, that number drops once we hone in on positions of authority like CEO, CIO, or even managers. At UTG, we advocate for following your passion, sharpening your skills, and breaking out of the box to continually evolve as a well-rounded individual. Educational access and organization varies, however, something larger is amiss and it is the social constructs and confines that have built academia and the workforce.

This blog coincides with International Day of the Girl and while strides for girls and women, both professionally and personally, have certainly been made since Marie Curie earned her Nobel Prize in 1903, we have clearly not come far enough. We cannot continue to move at a snail’s pace or to rely on someone else to step in and change the system. We know that girls demonstrate excitement in STEM and immense aptitude for it, but are often not given the same credibility and invested interest as their male counterparts.

In order to thrive, any interest or profession needs to be supported and people want to feel engaged. Be it children or the employee sitting before us, we need to be able to look them in the eyes, see them for their current experience and future potential, and pull them up. This perpetual cycle of male-dominated STEM roles does not shift unless those in charge commit daily to change and advance the cogs within their system.

More diverse perspectives and experiences certainly transform even the most successful company into a more cutting-edge organization with a wider breadth. Women are more than qualified to code, lead as hiring or project managers, safeguard infrastructure as a cybersecurity specialist, design data as a network architect, or cultivate a widely diverse and exceptionally qualified team as a CEO.

Knowledge and development do not begin and end with job descriptions and resumes, nor do they just simply evolve, whether it’s in a cubicle or the most appealing and original open-spaced setting. A company is really only as solid and groundbreaking as the team of people it is built upon (from the very top to those grinding away in front of their laptops or hustling to meetings).

Who is on your team? What are your expectations for each person and role? Is there equity in compensation, professional development, and advancement? Mentorship, hands-on experience, clear expectations from colleagues and superiors, and simply being able to express one’s voice without credibility unjustly being taken away, all contribute to an environment in which more women will be hired for STEM roles.

Due to the absence of women in this field, the criteria above is often viewed as “extra” and unfairly put on the shoulders of the limited women already in these positions, which in turn continues to hinder the number of women pursuing or being sought out in these fields. What must we do? Promote women. Work harder and more diligently to find women who are qualified for these roles. They exist, but we must commit to seeking them out in an arena that is otherwise monopolized.

It is part of our daily mission at UTG to help further this and increase the number of women working in technology and senior positions. Qualified, engaged, ingenious professionals are not relegated to one gender. In a field that is saturated with men, we take the extra steps to always seek out a diverse pool of candidates to interview, as we know an exceptional employee is more than a polished resume or LinkedIn profile.

UTG knows that dynamic professionals with a unique prowess abound in technology and we are proud to do our due diligence to search for and match them with our innovative and resourceful clients. At UTG we know from decades of experience in recruitment, as well as within our own office, that women, and a diverse team in general, only enhance a company’s prosperity and relevance. UTG’s utmost goal is to always deliver quality, but it is our passion to contribute to the rise in diversity in technology through empowering women in positions of growth and power.

What IT Is and Why IT Matters: a February Round-Up of Information Technology News

It’s been a short month but there’s been no shortage of things to do. You’re busy, that’s cool. But there’s also been no shortage of amazing news in the tech sphere, and we think you should know about it. So, we took it upon ourselves to compile a few of the most interesting articles out this month for your reading pleasure… 

Art:

“An Artist Sees Data So Powerful It Can Help Us Pick Better Friends” by Laura Sydell, NPR

What IT Is

NPR’s All Things Considered did an intriguing interview with artist Laurie Frick, who is using Big Data to answer big questions about who we are and how we relate to those around us. Frick takes vast amounts of data and distills it into visual and relatable ideas. She’s been an artist in residence for companies who see the value in finding new applications for the data they collect and she regularly comes up with out of the box ideas to try to engage people with the data they create.

Jenn Liv for NPR

Why IT Matters

More and more user information is collected and stored every time any one of us does anything online. Having someone put some of that information back into context can lead to better decision-making from companies and increased awareness as consumers about just what kind of information we’re putting out into the world. Plus, we think her idea of using data as a visual dashboard to know how you respond on a physiological level to individuals is a crazy-cool way to find new friends!    

Culture:

“‘Black Panther’ designers break down the futuristic technology of Wakanda” By Victoria Johnson, Mashable

What IT Is

You might have noticed that Black Panther is having a bit of a moment right now, and with good reason! This Mashable article walks you through the creation and inspiration behind the cutting edge technologies and the real-world influences that were combined for this blockbuster hit and cultural phenomenon.

Media: Marvel Images

Why IT Matters

The nation of Wakanda might be a fictional African nation, but much of the technology dreamed up for the film pays homage to real aspects of African heritage. Languages, costume patterns, symbols, weapons, and so much more were combined to create realistic, beautifully layered, and respectful nods to the cultures that they borrowed from. With the film’s deep commitment to genuinely reflecting every aspect of the hero’s homeland, it’s no surprise that the technologies utilized by the characters are also a testament to the continent’s heritage and culture. All of this brings to life a fictional nation that feels like it could realistically be added to the list of present-day UN Member States. This commitment has been overwhelmingly supported by the public as the film continues to get rave reviews and brings in huge numbers at the box office.  

Legal:

“Google Says It’s Received 2.4 Million Takedown Requests Under EU’s ‘Right to Be Forgotten’ Laws” By Tom McKay, Gizmodo

What IT Is

In this article, Gizmodo’s Tom McKay does an excellent job of explaining Google’s most recent Transparency Report as it pertains to the EU’s “Right to be Forgotten” laws that were established in 2014. The report shows Google’s efforts to comply with users requesting the removal of personal information in relation to the EU regulations. Although it appears there is a niche group of search result ‘Fixers’ being hired to take care of an increasing number of requests, the report shows that a lot of individuals are taking it upon themselves to take back control of their search histories.  

Why IT Matters

When everything from bad prom pics to a criminal past are easily available through a quick Google search, the question of who can and should be able to access your personal information is one of great concern to a lot of people. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “the internet is forever” and immediately thought of the embarrassing video you made for your high school Spanish class, then you know what we mean (La Catrina, am I right?). If those search results have been keeping you up at night, you might find this article comforting. As if we needed another reason to move to Europe…

Local:

“One Year In, The Ameren Accelerator Has Surpassed All Expectations” By Oliver Cox, EQ STL

What IT Is

According to the official website the Ameren Accelerator  is “an innovative partnership with Missouri System, UMSL Accelerate and Capital Innovators designed to invest, mentor, and accelerate the growth of next-generation energy technologies.” And according to this article from EQ, one year in and the Accelerator is proving to be an invaluable space for energy technology growth and innovation in St. Louis.

Businessman using tablet pc and selecting start-up.

 

Why IT Matters

If you’re not 100% sold on packing up and heading to Europe to be ‘forgotten,’ then you might be interested to know that St. Louis has been positioning itself as a great spot for technology innovation and start-up incubation. The success of yet another highly visible accelerator helps prove that point to potential investors, startups, and tech professionals trying to decide where to call home. Unfortunately, with this year’s application deadline passing on March 9, if you’ve got an energy idea you’d like to bring to fruition, it’ll have to wait another year. On the plus side, you’ve got the maximum amount of time to prepare for next year’s funding to make the dream come true.

Technology, Food, and the River City

Shutterstock

Technology + Food

At first glance, it might appear that these two are a strange pair. Food in its most unadulterated form is tangible and comes direct from the Earth (for now at least, see the thing about the pizza below), while technology and the associated data are more abstract and seemingly come from Silicon Valley, or, if you’re here in St. Louis, the Cortex. But lately, as tech continues to become even more tightly woven into every aspect of our lives, this particular combination has been making headlines and garnering buzz for some weird and wonderful partnerships.

Innovative combinations like hydroponics and the Internet of Things, apps and reducing food waste, and even pizza-making and 3D printers have been spurring a technologically-driven food boon. Everywhere you look, food and technology are intersecting.

Even tech giants are making food a focus. Fast Company wrote an article at the end of July about Google working to engineer a plant-based “power dish” for their menu at their new campus. And, word spread very fast last month about the e-commerce giant, Amazon’s $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods. With such large tech companies moving into the food scene, it will be very interesting to see what’s going to become more popular in food technology, and food trends in general, in the coming months and years.

It’s important to note that, at the same time this is all happening, food as it relates to health and ethical consumption has increasingly become a topic of conversation and debate in the world of politics, wellness, and sustainability. Documentaries like Fed Up, What the Health, and the forthcoming Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, the latest project featuring the renowned chef, author, and television personality, Anthony Bourdain, have a lot of people paying more attention to where their food is coming from and how it found its way onto their plates. People want to know just how good their typical meals are for their health, and it’s placed a spotlight on where our food is coming from and where it goes when we’re finished with it.

THE RIVER CITY: EATING LOCAL IN STL

This awareness has already led to a shift in shopping habits and preferences at the consumer level. Here in St. Louis we’re already starting to see individual consumers take a more deliberate approach to their food purchases. And one of the biggest trends to come from an increased focus on our food and eating habits has been the rise in popularity of the Eat Local trend. On the technology front, innovations like Square are making it easier for small family farms to sell their produce, and the internet and social media have been a blessing for local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture which helps consumers buy seasonal food directly from local farms) and Farmers Markets.

Health conscious and local-minded consumers can follow their favorite Markets on Facebook for updates and use sites and LocalHarvest.org to connect with CSA supported growers in the area. Throughout the growing season, markets like the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market provide a great way for St. Louisans to support area farmers and get their hands on some fresh and healthy produce. Some markets like the Soulard Farmers’ Market are even open year-round.

Restaurants are also in on the Eat Local movement. Popular eateries like Café Osage , Lulu’s Local Eatery, Five Bistro and Winslow’s Home are gaining in popularity and are touted for their local fare. With locally sourced eateries, discerning and conscientious consumers in the area can be sure that the food they’re eating is fresh and grown nearby. In the case of Café Osage, the ingredients hardly have to travel at all as most of their dishes are crafted featuring produce from their garden right across the street.

A view of the patio at Café Osage. Source: http://www.bowoodfarms.com/index.cfm/fuseaction/cafe.showpage/pageID/3/index.htm

FEEDING LOCAL

Also on the forefront as eating out and eating local are becoming trendier, is an increased awareness on the prominence of food deserts in many areas of the country. While eating local can be good for the local economy and the health and wellness of area patrons, it’s important to note that there are also many area locations and organizations working to ensure we don’t just Eat Local, but we Feed Local too.

Initiatives like Gateway Greening which promotes and organizes community gardens, rooftop and urban gardens like Urban Harvest STL, and St Louis MetroMarket, a mobile food market, and are all local efforts to decrease the prevalence of food deserts in the metro area and to ensure that every St. Louisan has access to nutritious foods. Because 3-D pizza isn’t quite as cool knowing there are people who can’t even access fresh produce.

Follow the links to above to learn more and support local food production. And be sure to let us know if we missed your favorite local eatery or farmers’ market in the comments below!

Myers-Briggs in the Workplace: The Good, The Bad, and the Illegal

Here at UTG, we recently added a weekly presentation to our office-wide Morning Meetings. Topics can be chosen by the presenter, and will focus on how we can grow and be better as an organization without necessarily having to stick to our typical, tech-focused presentations.

Knowing I have a presentation to make in the near future, I thought about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a personality test I had to take in college as part of a Professional Development class. I enjoy working with each of my coworkers as they all bring a different energy and approach to our work, and I figured the test could be an interesting and useful way to illustrate those differences, and could potentially lead to even better team communication.

I mentioned it to my boss who enthusiastically agreed (she was a Psych major after all) and I quickly emailed out a free version of the test to my colleagues. And then I got to thinking…

We’re doing these tests more for fun and as a jumping off point for discussion and collaboration. But, there are organizations, individuals, and schools of thought that take these tests very seriously. Conversely, there are those who completely dismiss the idea of using personality tests in the workplace.

I decided to take a look into how these tests are put to use in the workplace and I’ll be honest, I’ve found pretty mixed reviews…

The Good

Looking in to this heavily analyzed topic, I found no shortage of articles and summaries touting the benefits of using the MBTI to ‘type’ employees. Some of the most common arguments for type-testing involved…

Improves Communication

Almost immediately I found articles that agreed with my initial belief that the Myers-Briggs can bring about some positives in workplace communication. Elena Bajic said in an article for Forbes that personality-typing in an office can aid managers with team communications, “…because you will understand how each person works best and what they need to do their job well.” This made a lot of sense to me, as I’d come to the same conclusion regarding peer to peer communications, but I hadn’t previously considered the value it could add to manager-employee relations.

Promotes Differences as Valued

The MBTI also serves to highlight differences between team members, while taking care not to claim that any one type is inherently better than any other. This can be useful for organizations looking to diversify their teams and tactics. Using the Myers-Briggs to promote differences and diversity as organizational values, rather than trying to force homogeny, can bring about a more well-rounded approach to organizational goals.

Plays to Strengths

‘Typing’ employees can quickly provide a tangible set of strengths for each person, which can be invaluable to newly formed teams, or to those undertaking a new project. Understanding who in the office has a penchant for numbers, who is the most gregarious, or who is the most persuasive, means that teams can be built with efficiency and effectiveness in mind. Knowing your Analysts from your Diplomats can make short work of multi-faceted problems, and allows a company to avoid misallocating its workforce.

The Bad

However, not all of the articles I read took a positive stance on MBTI. In fact, many were quick to point out the dangers of trying to boil down the complexities that comprise personality into 16 rigid categories. Some of the most salient reasons included…

Reliance on Self-Awareness

Like most personality tests, the MBTI gives results based on how the person being typed responds to a series of questions. Which, as Peter Bregman points out in an article for Harvard Business Review, “self-assessments, by definition, reinforce a person’s self-image…[and] personality tests reinforce our blind spots.” Every person has preconceived notions about their own strengths and weaknesses as well as aspirational and societal reasons that make it near impossible to answer completely accurately. The test could serve to reinforce these distorted views of ourselves.

Assumes a Static Dichotomy

Another pratfall of Myers-Briggs is it doesn’t easily account for people who fall somewhere in the middle of any of the four metrics. Business Insider Australia’s Jesse Olsen and Peter Gahan use some humorous MTBI-esque acronyms to explain that the test isn’t necessarily static. “Most of us are about average on at least one of the four dimensions, which means that we probably teeter on the edge between two (or more) types. Answer one of the questions differently, and you might fall into a different personality type.” This means that assuming the test results are a hard and fast type-cast can make for flawed decision making.

Amplifies Perceived Weaknesses

The flip-side to using the MBTI to efficiently assign team members to certain tasks based on strengths, is that the test isn’t actually predictive of performance and can be misused when evaluating teams. It could be very easy to inadvertently dismiss qualified or motivated team members based on the perceived weaknesses of their Myers-Briggs types. It would be a shame to pass over an employee for a client-facing role simply because they tested as Introverted, because that employee may have had a particular knowledge, passion, or approach that could have been a real asset to gaining a client’s business or trust. Using type-testing as a key factor in eliminating personnel from certain projects or functions could prove to be a wholly discouraging and highly problematic approach to team building.

The Illegal

Over the course of my research, my focus on type-testing revolved around team-building and the pros and cons therein. But, I did keep coming across a specific instance in which using the MBTI seemed to be universally admonished…

As a Hiring Tool

Again and again, I came across articles from across the business sphere warning that Myers-Briggs should never be used during the hiring process in order to screen candidates. The test isn’t predictive of performance as I mentioned above. It also opens up a lot of questions of ethical hiring and possible discrimination. In fact, the MBTI® Code of Ethics even states that it’s “unethical and in many cases illegal to require job applicants to take the Indicator if the results will be used to screen out applicants.” While I was unable to locate any specific instances of the test being used in an illegal manner with regards to hiring, I’d personally refrain from using it in any part of the hiring process and would instead view it as a tool to strengthen a team that is already in place.

In conclusion

Overall, I believe the MBTI results can be used to foster a more understanding and cooperative environment amid newly formed and already established teams. But I think it’s important to state that the results should be taken with a grain of salt, care should be taken in how they are interpreted and how that information is subsequently used by managers and teams, and the test should absolutely remain separate from the hiring process. Still, with those caveats very much in mind, I’m cautiously optimistic that our discussion of our results in our upcoming team meeting will remain positive and productive, and might even lead to a stronger team.

Welcome to UTG: We’re Breaking New Ground (in more ways than one)

The past few weeks have brought about a lot of change for UTG. We’ve moved, we’re updating our digital platforms, and we’re starting up some awesome new partnerships!

(1) Physical Change: New Location

The first change has been in the physical location. Due to company growth, we’ve relocated from our old offices at 1015 Locust to new digs at the Millennium Center building at 515 Olive.

Although the distance from our old office to our new one is only about half a mile, to us, it represents a huge shift. The team is energized, the space feels fresh, and we have some great new views, especially of the infamous St. Louis sinkhole everyone’s been talking about…

Our view of the sinkhole construction. Taken from the UTG conference room. July 6, 2017.

Our President (and fearless leader), Trenna Edwards-Quevreaux, poked fun at the fact that we came to the building and a week later, the ground was quite literally, breaking.

“I’d like to think we’re groundbreaking in the ways that we think and operate, but we didn’t mean it literally.”

–Trenna Edwards-Quevreaux, President, UTG

Sinkholes aside, we’re so glad to still be in the heart of downtown STL, just a stone’s throw from the Old Courthouse and the recently renovated Kiener Plaza Park, and are truly loving the new location. We can stop by Starbucks on our way into the building in the morning, and pop over to Mr. Curry’s for lunch. We love the energy of downtown and enjoy seeing the streets flood with fans during Cardinals home games. And, as a technology-focused company, it’s also good to be near so many St. Louis innovators, from ShipWorks to T-Rex, and we’re loving the energy and output coming from this area of town!

(2) Digital Change: Website Upgrades

We’ve been breaking some new ground in our digital space too! Our website is getting the old once-over and we’re taking the opportunity to connect our digital platforms in a more user-friendly way. We’re linking our company Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn through our website to better showcase who we are and how we work to our clients and candidates. Now you can head directly to our social media sites from our web page and our social media manager couldn’t be more thrilled!

We’re also blogging now! Yep! This is actually the first of many UTG blog posts to come. As a St. Louis-based and women-owned IT Services Firm, we’re of course going to be featuring cool things in the tech industry, new and interesting things happening in St. Louis, and some amazing and inspiring women too! We’re really excited for the opportunity to foster some discussion and share some love for our region and our field!

(3) Civic Change: Putting People over Profit

For 14 years UTG has operated differently than many other IT Consulting firms. We pride ourselves on being more collaborative than competitive, a huge cultural difference from most of the industry. We also focus heavily on relationship-building with both our clients and our candidates. We want to foster talent and make a point of investing in our candidates’ soft skills. Through the development of soft skills and resume building, we aim to make our candidates as marketable as possible, and we cheer them on when they experience success.

Recently we came together as a company and decided that we wanted to make the same investment that we make in our IT candidates in our community. UTG has recently begun partnering with Places for People, an amazing organization that provides mental health services in the St. Louis area. Many of the people they work with are transitioning back into the workforce and we’re excited to begin partnering with their vocational program to teach these soft skills. We’re doing what we can to aid the transition because the skills we teach to tech candidates are absolutely transferable to the clients at Places for People. We’re also looking into other area organizations to partner with, and can’t wait to see these relationships grow!

If you have any questions about who we are or what we do, or if you have any St. Louis recommendations we’d love to hear from you in the comments below! We love talking tech and career building, and we’re always on the hunt for a good lunch spot!

Written by Julia Haberstroh