16 Dec STEM: It’s a Girl Thing
STEM: It’s a Girl Thing
WIN is excited to share with you a blog post from Aurelia Takacs, a Cisco Business Relationship Manager living in Brussels. Aurelia is an active global advocate for girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields. She is intricately involved in Greenlight for Girls, an organization that works with girls ages 10-15 to immerse them in STEM activities and prepare them for future careers in these areas. Keep reading to learn more about Aurelia and Greenlight for Girls.
First things first, let’s get this out there: I’m not an engineer. I’m not technical. I didn’t pursue STEM studies in university, either. So, what am I and why am I making so much noise and effort around getting more girls and women into STEM? Simply put, I’m an “advocate” and a “voice” willing to amplify my belief in the growing need to get more girls and women involved in STEM fields.
The bug bit me mostly five years ago when I joined Cisco as a Technical Services Manager. Prior to Cisco, I was a people manager at MasterCard, but I mostly managed account and client relationship teams, with not a huge amount of exposure to technical engineers. And suddenly, I find myself managing engineers for the first time (quite senior and tenured ones for that matter), and I can tell you – that was quite an experience! However, it was a very positive experience to realize and break down all the stereotypes you hear about engineers, their profiles and personalities. I came to see each one as an incredible, intelligent, unique person that I was lucky to work with.
My teams were mostly 15-20% women, the complete opposite of what I was used to before my time at Cisco. At the management level as well, women made up approximately 15-20% of the local leadership team. Hiring women into the roles proved a frequent challenge with both a lack of female candidates and a very non-diverse team of interviewers back then as well. I soon started working with engineers in the Middle East, and hearing about the challenges the female engineers in my teams there met when deciding to pursue STEM studies (from family, friends, school, etc.), only fueled my interest and drive to make a difference. It was just too obvious: something had to be done, and I wanted to be part of that “something!” Not all of these women were willing or comfortable to speak up about the challenges they were facing so, I was ready to be their “voice”.
About three years ago, I became very involved with a global organization, Greenlight for Girls (g4g), of which the founder and chairman was a former professor and friend of mine from Boston University, where I completed my Master’s degree. Greenlight for Girls is an international organization focused on inspiring and encouraging girls aged 10-15 to consider STEM studies and careers down the road through events full of fun, interactive, hands-on workshops delivered by STEM role models in the industry. Essentially, we are inspiring and building the future talent pipeline of female STEM leaders – who would not want to play a positive part in that effort? And what better age group to work with than these young girls, still full of dreams and open to discovering different possibilities and paths for their futures.
I made it my personal mission, through my role and amazing network at Cisco, to partner and collaborate with Greenlight for Girls by hosting g4g events in Brussels. Then my dream of launching g4g in the Middle East in 2014 was fulfilled, with the sponsorship of Cisco, Cisco Networking Academy and other Cisco partner companies and organizations based in Amman, Jordan. Working with other like-minded people and organizations passionate about getting more girls and women into STEM is a great driving force, especially when I hear their personal stories as to why/how they got into this cause and what it means to them.
Through the collaboration of g4g and Cisco, we’ve successfully inspired 150 girls in Jordan, 140 in Krakow, 200 girls in London, and 240 in Brussels, and hundreds of volunteer hours, with a growing list of other locations around the world where Cisco wants to be part of a Greenlight for Girls STEM event.
So, why do I do it? Because at Cisco, we make it possible to fulfill our beliefs that we play a part in changing the world and I plan on doing that, girl by girl.