Women Helping Women: Building a Paceline of Inclusivity in the Workplace

Dartmouth Thermodynamics Team

As a woman in a STEM-focused career (science, technology, engineering and/or math), I’m acutely aware of the groundswell of efforts to welcome more females into these fields. I have so much hope for the future of women in STEM fields, because I can already see things changing in real-time. Generational pacelines are already growing pipelines where women can build each other up, improve companies with their talents and strengths and offer an entirely new perspective.

While there are compounding factors behind the imbalance in STEM careers, to me one part is clear—women haven’t been able to leverage relationships the same way men have in these fields. 

Here’s the good news: The leaders and innovators of tomorrow are already looking different, seeing things from different perspectives and building more inclusive workplaces and environments. It takes time to build, but the foundation is there, strengthened by the generations of women that came before, spoke up, mentored other women and supported each other. The more stories we tell about the ones leading the charge, the more women we’ll empower and inspire to go after careers in STEM and beyond.

What’s inspiring this change? It’s women feeling more confident, gaining access to education that was previously restricted, reaching critical mass in the workplace as well as their roles changing in society. Building these metaphorical pacelines (a theme of The Best Seller) has given women in subsequent generations more of a voice in our society, and those voices are being recognized thanks to new forms of communication, like social media. Ideas take root more quickly and messages reach the masses in the blink of an eye.

If you’re looking for someone to help guide you through a career change, or navigate the territory as a minority in the workplace, I can’t recommend seeking out a mentor highly enough. 

Just remember to be patient with yourself: In a world where it can feel like we’re in this alone, it takes time to build a support system where trust takes firm root and grows into opportunities for ourselves and other women. That support system is key to any leader, male or female, but it’s especially important when the industry is dominated by the other gender. Rely on it when you can and allow others to help you, and reciprocate when it makes sense. We’re all in this together.

More about this photo: During my time in college 1997-2001, only ~15% of the Engineering students were women.  We often combined forces to build each other up. This photo is of my college Thermodynamics Stirling Engine Team.  Each individual built his/her own Stirling Engine in the machine shop, then we teamed up and competed on baseline engine output vs. machine shop and creative modifications applying what we learned in class. Our team happened to win this competition. It was a good day!

Katie Bishop and her father, Doug Reichardt teamed up over 5 years to capture lessons on how to leverage favorable access and demand-pull in business, sales, and life. Their novel, now available on Amazon, follows a young woman struggling in her career who finds inspiration and wisdom in her journey. Want an early copy? Stay in the loop.