My name is Caitlin Butala and I am one of the 17 women in the 2020 Class of MIT’s Leaders for Global Operations. As an engineer and a quant focused person, I root myself in data and want to start off by sharing some statistics. Just last year, the US Department of Commerce released a report on the status of women in STEM related fields, and of their many topics, they found that “Women filled 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015 but held only 24 percent of STEM jobs. Likewise, women constitute slightly more than half of college educated workers but make up only 25 percent of college educated STEM workers.” When you get to executive level management those figures drop even more. The most shocking statistic I have learned so far at MIT was from the Sloan Women In Management (SWIM) and that is in 2016 Women made up only 4.1% of Fortune 500 CEOs…while 4.5% of Fortune 500 CEOs were named David. Clearly there is something wrong here. Looking at these stats in comparison to their level 30 years ago there is no argument that women have become a larger percentage of the STEM community, and I do not intend to diminish the meaningful advancements many strong women have made in getting the conversation started. I only intend to highlight that there is still much to accomplish, and I am proud to be part of a class igniting this change.
Being one of the only females in the room is not an unfamiliar occurrence for me. Several of my college classes had all men except for me, and in the first few years of my career, the departments I worked in never had more than one other woman. Because of those experiences, I have become passionate about exposing the excitement of STEM to women of all ages and advocating that women speak up and contribute to management discussions. That’s why much of my time outside of work and school has been dedicated to education, and specifically STEM education for girls. During college, I worked with my engineering department to host a women in engineering day for local Girl Scout troops to expose participants to different opportunities in engineering fields. Since graduating I became a board member at The Mercy Learning Center in Bridgeport Connecticut, a non-profit focused on women’s education.
“I am an advocate for the development of more STEM content at all levels of education. Being a part of the LGO Class of 2020, it has been encouraging to see the women in LGO feel as passionate about this as I do.”
Paige Youngerman, another one of the strong women of the LGO Class of 2020 has focused her volunteerism on highlighting opportunities in STEM to girls from a young age. As an officer in the United States Army, her unit partnered with local schools, holding workshops for girls, teaching them STEM fundamentals, and designing fun engineering projects like building Lego bridges and holding boat races. When she joined the LGO Class of 2020, she has continued to be involved with introducing STEM to the next generation. She participates in events talking to middle and high school girls in advanced science programs about future opportunities as an engineer. When asked why she does it, Paige said, “making sure women are encouraged to pursue STEM at a young age and making it fun is one of my passions!”
Bidusha Poudyal and Lea Dagle have both been involved with organizations that focus on teaching girls about opportunities in STEM from a young age. Bidusha was a mentor for girls in Girls Who Code in New York City, talking to young women about navigating their careers and introducing them to the fundamentals of coding. She also participated in the Columbia Girls in STEM program as a mentor and taught a class one day a week at a local all-girls high school where her team built a curriculum focused on STEM enrichment. Lea, in conjunction with fellow volunteers at the Boys and Girls Club started a group called GirlsLab! This organization leads sessions weekly, hosting events such as egg drops and roller coaster design labs in a hands on approach to STEM education.
These are just some of the examples of how the Women of LGO have been involved championing others to get involved with STEM. Here on campus the LGO ladies have taken on leadership roles throughout campus, heading up committees and clubs, hosting women’s preview days, and revolutionizing the mentor matching program for SWIM by building optimization algorithms to match 2nd year women at Sloan to 1styears so that these women can find their ideal mentor. This network extends beyond your two years at MIT. The WLGO is a group of women that have graduated from LGO that stay connected, sharing experiences and lessons learned across the network and host events during the LGO alumni conference.
You can see LGO’s commitment to driving more women to apply to the program, with the positive trends of women in the LGO Class going from 29% two years ago to 38% in the Class of 2021, but 38% is not enough, we need to do more to encourage young girls to pursue a STEM background, because having the fundamentals from grade school to high school, builds confidence to take on the tough problems we are facing in industry today and become leaders our field.
By Caitlin Butala LGO Class of 2020