Q: In what ways can we help the under representation of women in STEM fields?
A: I think the good news is that this issue is getting a lot more attention than it has in the past. Role modelling and trying to embolden it through awareness. One of the areas I think that has a lot of opportunity, is to help people understand the importance of diversity of thinking, and having women involved in the innovative space; to drive innovation and change. The cognitive diversity that only women can bring into STEM, for instance, in engineering, helps to diminish some of the cognitive biases that prevent radical innovation from occurring.
Q: In terms of misconceptions within the technology industry, what do you think we can do to diminish biases and stereotypes that mind hinder women from active participation?
A: Role modelling; a lot of organisations in Silicon Valley and Berkeley, where I work, are taking a very proactive approach to recruit women into tech. The more we can do to create opportunities like that, the better. Surprisingly, sometimes I am often the only female speaker at tech conventions and promotions, which really makes me think that there is actually a lot more than can be done.
Q: Could you tell me a little about what you do at your organisation?
A: Most of my career, I have been a executive. I started off as a psychologist with the study of mental health, and then I went into criminal intelligence. So I was able to serendipitously follow one of the opportunities that came, I didn’t really set everything out strategically to invent a career, I just pursued myself. In the field of criminal investigation and justice, I was working in the industry for about six years, and it turned out that the technology which we were using was the same as what Walt Disney had decided to use in the studios. Because there was a scarcity of anyone with those skill sets, and in that capacity, when I was working at the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and Division of Criminal Justice, I was the only female in the group. It was a very male dominated industry at the time. The Walt Disney Company then recruited me to come out to California because of the technical skills that I had acquired working in this industry. In entertainment, there were far more women in the industry because it is a more creative industry. We had a really cool division called ‘Imagineering’ which was essentially engineering, and was predominantly men in the organisation. Through out my career, I have also been teaching as a Professor, and I think it is so important to practice, but also share what you are learning within the practice to students. So, I have been teaching for over 45 years, and even that industry (at the time) was mostly male. But, I was at Disney for 15 years, then I went to Universal Studios; they recruited me for some of the systems that we developed. I was there for 6 years, then I was recruited by the Gap, because one of the presidents of the entertainment industry was recruited to be the president of the Gap. So he recruited me to come and lead a whole division at Gap, and from there I ended my corporate career in a entrepreneurial passion that i had been pursuing for a long time; to start my own company. And so that is what I have been doing for the last 7 years, in Silicon Valley. I support a lot of transformations in the tech sector, while I develop a program at UC Berkeley (where I teach) and continue to develop new content. In fact, when I waiting for you today, I was sketching out a new idea that I am developing on the neuroscience of leadership. And another idea that I just thought of as a result of a recent conference, here in Singapore, is creating a new course on how to change your mindset to an agile one. So, right now, I am an entrepreneur; started my own business, and if there is one thing I would look back, even though I truly enjoyed the diversity of every single career I had, I worked for Walt Disney, Universal Studios (which was acquired by General Electric), so I also worked for GE and NBC (where I lead a business division). So, I have had a lot of rich diversity in my background, but right now, I regret having not started my own company earlier. Entrepreneurism is just so much more rewarding, I think.
Q: How do you contribute to UC Berkeley, is that one of the areas you are currently looking into?
A: Yes, about 10 years ago, when I was an executive at the Gap, Berkeley reached out to me to develop a program on agile management. I still teach in this program, and I do something innovative here. As I am teaching a class, I invite the students to actually become the teachers. This inspires them to think in completely new levels, and to believe in their potential to contribute and share. One piece of advice that I would like to offer, is to truly believe in your potential, a unique and differentiating potential, even if you might have not had the experience; as long as you lead with your heart, your head and every part of you. So, I am still developing new content for my students at Berkeley, in fact, I am flying out of Singapore to work at E-Bay tomorrow, to develop some radical thinking on the development of leaders at all levels. I also do a lot of work with all the banks in Australia and New Zealand, and the next couple of months are going to be very busy so I am not going to be back in the Bay Area full time till January, when I have 2 classes lined up. One of them is the ‘Value of Innovation’, how to truly value radical innovation and entrepreneurialism in different perspectives. Another one is ‘How to lead transformational change’ in big companies such as DBS. I am also working with one of my former students, who happens to be a neuroscientist in the Bay Area.
Q: What is some advice that you would give to young girls who have a keen interest in pursuing a STEM field?
A: One of the most important things to believe is learning from experiences; in fact, the best way to learn is by failing. By failing, we create new knowledge, that we were not aware of before. If we just keep winning, it actually just deludes our edge of learning; as long as you learn faster than everybody less, you are going to do extremely well in whatever you pursue. Nowadays, there is a strong recognition that there is a history of a lack of diversity in STEM fields, that corporations are really trying to remedy. Take advantage of these opportunities, and fearlessly walk into these doors with the humility of knowing you are going to learn along the way, but don’t ever be, in any way, fearful or diminish your own potential just because somebody else might have more knowledge in a particular area. If you truly try to build your mindset, and your belief in that full potential, then its really going to open doors for young girls everywhere.
A little about Pat Reed: Pat is currently a professor at the University of California, Berkeley and a Agile Consultant at Software Education and Principal Consultant at iHoriz Inc. Some of her specialties include: Agile Accounting and Capitalization, Business Agility, Building High Performance Teams, Agile Portfolio Management, Value Management, Application Development, Product Management and Development, Innovation, Adaptive Leadership, Strategic Planning, Complex Program Management and leading Global PMOs, Merger & Acquisition Integration, Process Re-Engineering, Business Enablement, DevOps, Cost Reduction, Vendor Management, Audit & Compliance, Communications, Leading Transformational Change and Learning Agility.