The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “Why is a background in STEM important for shaping female leaders?” is written by Gay Gaddis, CEO and founder of T3.
We have all seen the transformative effect that technology has had on business and society. But what I’m seeing today tells me that we are still in the early stages of what’s to come.
About 20 years ago, my advertising agency started doing digital projects for our clients. Almost immediately, we saw the power of the data that resulted from those projects. We knew what worked. Success was no longer a matter of opinion. The ability to see the data enabled us to improve the quality of our work on a daily basis.
We watched Moore’s Law unfold in front of our eyes. I hired technologists, data scientists, and engineers as fast as I could. It was literally like drinking through a fire hose. In the early days, most of them were self-taught men. Today, we still struggle to find women with lots of technical experience. But what is encouraging is that all of our work is now done in knowledge-based teams, and women often lead them. They may not be doing the code, but they are heavily involved in the strategy, execution, and results.
Women control 73% of all household spending in the United States, according to Catalyst. At my company, we are just in the beginning stages of deploying artificial intelligence into real-world marketing programs. We need women involved in designing and building these programs from the ground up. If we allow the work to only be done by men, they will miss critical insights. Women have the skills, intuition, and emotional intelligence that our clients need to remain competitive.
I have talked to hundreds of young women over the past year at universities about their careers and aspirations. Most of them are looking for meaning in their work and collaborative environments that are rewarding. Selling STEM jobs by talking about learning to code in dark rooms with people hunched over computers is not the right approach.
The vision we need to explain to young women is that today, we are on the verge of technology making lives better, solving cancer, and finding better ways to educate our children. If we show them that they can imagine, design, and build knowledge, systems, and platforms that are transformative for good, they will listen. And, if we show them the dynamic, bright people that they will get to team with to make it happen, we will see better results.
I urge those of us who are still pioneering technologies to recruit women by showing the benefit, not the toolsets. I urge young women to look beyond the math and the science and see the opportunity to make the world a truly better place.
We are going to see miracles. But young women need to be at the table.