Advancing In STEM A Daunting Proposition For Women

Interview with Gale Allen, Deputy Chief Scientist, NASA


Gale is Deputy Chief Scientist at NASA where she advises the NASA Administrator and senior managers in matters of scientific research, represents NASA science to national and international communities, and is a science advocate to NASA stakeholders. She holds a B. S. in Chemistry, and M. S. in Chemistry from Old Dominion University, an MBA in Management from Brenau University, and a Doctorate in Business Administration with an emphasis in high technology partnership development from Nova Southeastern University.

We sat down with her ahead of the Women In STEM Summit, taking place in San Francisco this June 8 and 9.

How did you get started in your role?

When I was a child, I would look up at the sky and wonder what it would be like to be there, looking back at our Earth. I was always curious about what was out there.

What or who inspired you to pursue a career in STEM?

When I was in secondary school I only had the option of pursuing an academic or business route. I was never very good at typing or accounting. I did find the sciences challenging so I went the academic route.

Female scientists & engineers make up 41% of entry and mid-level professionals, yet 52% of women in STEM quit their job by mid-career. What do you think is the biggest factor in this high attrition rate? What do you think is the solution?

As far as the federal government is concerned, I think the perception of advancing in a STEM field as a female is daunting. In most cases, it is still a heavily male influenced environment and we are seeing implicit or perhaps unconscious factors. Also, there are personal reasons: child care, elder family care, etc. increasing options in child care and family friendly leave may help, but sometimes personal conviction may trump any of the 'fixes' that may be put in place.

What advice would you give to the next generation of girls and boys looking to enter STEM?

Go for it. Even if you have doubts, all you need is passion and desire. It can be an extremely rewarding and challenging career.

What will you be discussing in your presentation?

I will be discussing what we are doing in the Agency to promote women and STEM as well as our obligation and responsibility to ensure the hundreds of millions of dollars we send out of the agency for research is awarded as fairly and equitably as possible across all demographics.

You can hear more from Gale, along with other leading women in STEM industries, at the Women In STEM Summit. To register your interest, click here.

University lecture small

Read next:

How Are Higher Education Institutions Using Analytics?