Although women have made significant strides in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sectors, there is still a considerable gender disparity. According to UNESCO, only 35% of students pursuing STEM subjects in higher education are women. Reducing this imbalance will require conscious efforts from everyone, everywhere.

On the back of International Women’s Day, FNA is galvanizing our commitment to sustained efforts to bridge this divide and enable women to thrive. 

We are creating opportunities for women to fulfil their potential within and outside our organization. While there’s always room for improvement, in our pursuit of promoting a strong and inclusive workplace, women made up 83% of those promoted in FNA in the past 12 months.

Furthermore, celebrating women and their value should be a persistent topic of conversation year-round. As part of our commitment, we’d like to introduce you to a woman who is not only an exemplary human but also demonstrates where a career may lead someone who pursues their curiosity in studying a STEM field.

 

We’ve asked FNA’s Chief Data Scientist, Samantha Cook, about her experiences and thoughts on this vital topic. 

Sam’s Q&A as you have it:

 

 

Q: Tell us about your role as FNA’s Chief Scientist.

A: It’s shifted some over the years, but I’ve always done some combination of working directly with the software and interacting with clients. Working with the software has covered everything from developing new algorithms to writing documentation. I work a lot with the developers to help ensure the software works correctly, is fast, and is well-documented. Client work always means learning new things, and I’ve learned a ton over the years. In the early days, when there were only a few of us, I worked on everything. As the company has grown, I’ve narrowed my focus to mostly working on payment simulation.

 

Q: This conversation falls on the back of International Women’s Day 2024,  what does International Women’s Day mean to you, and why is it an important day to recognize?

A: I think it’s great to recognize the challenges that still exist for women in so many professional spheres, which hopefully helps to lessen some of them. And also just to recognize great women, in STEM fields and across the board!

 

Q: On the subject of Science, Technology, Maths and engineering, Where did your interest in data, statistics and economics come from? 

A: As a kid, I was good at math and lucky enough to have parents and teachers who really encouraged me. A high school math teacher mentioned once that statistics was a great field with lots of high-paying jobs, and that always stuck in my head. Then I took my first statistics class in college – everyone else in the class (everyone else in the world, it seems) absolutely hated it, but I was hooked! I just thought it was so interesting and so practical and useful.

 

Q: Why is encouraging women in STEM and finance important? And where does the lack of inclusion come from? 

A: I think that’s a topic on which many PhD theses could be written! (And maybe already have…) It must depend on lots of complex factors ranging from tradition/inertia to sometimes blatant sexism, but I really don’t feel qualified to get into specifics. But I do believe strongly that STEM, and actually any field, would benefit greatly from having the best possible people working in them, and that situation is most likely to arise when everyone – women, minorities, the economically disadvantaged, and so on – has equal access to entry.

 

Q: Based on your own experiences, have you found that inclusion has improved over the years?

A: It’s great to see more and more women in my little corner of the sciences. When I started graduate school, there were already a lot of women students in statistics but very few women professors. That’s changed a lot over the 25 (!) years since I started studying. And during my 12 years with FNA I’ve interacted with more and more women clients. 

 

Q: What can organizations do to foster more inclusion beyond hiring more women? 

A: I think just treating employees well is a great start. Good health care (I know that for people in many countries, health care isn’t tied to employment, but in the United States, where I’m based, it’s a huge issue), generous family leave policies, flexible time off. Policies like that benefit all employees, and in particular, people raising children, a job that still falls disproportionately on women.  

 

Q: What advice would you offer women looking to go down a similar career path? 

A: Do it! STEM is a great field with tons of rewarding, well-paying jobs. Seek out mentorship early, and don’t be afraid to move on if you find yourself unhappy in a job.

 

Q: On a final note of mentorship and role models, in a study by Microsoft, 42% of women working in STEM jobs reported that they did not have a role model who inspired them to pursue their field of study or career. Does that statistic hold true for you? Did you have any specific role models that encouraged you to pursue your career? 

A: My very first statistics professor in college was a woman (Brenda Gunderson at the University of Michigan, now retired). She was a phenomenal teacher, and that class was what first made me seriously consider statistics as a career field.

Join us in inspiring young women and encouraging them to pursue their interests and dreams without facing societal barriers. By promoting inclusivity and equal opportunities, we can experience the full potential of women’s contributions that benefit society as a whole. 

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Although women have made significant strides in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) sectors, there is still a considerable gender disparity. According to UNESCO, only 35% of students pursuing STEM subjects in higher education are women. Reducing this imbalance will require conscious efforts from everyone, everywhere. On the back of International Women’s Day, FNA […]
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