Patty McDonnell credits growing up with a chemist mother and engineer father. “I remember making soap for a middle school science experiment with my father and a lot of attempts failed,” said McDonnell, a scientist who recently left the lab for an enterprise governance role at the company. “My father didn’t view them as failures. He offered encouragement and said something like, ‘It came out real liquidy. Let’s try again and see what happens if we adjust one of the parameters.’”
There is no one path to finding a passion for science. For many girls and women, however, that path can turn into an uphill climb. Women fill about half of all U.S. jobs, but hold just 24 percent of jobs in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, according to a recent Census Bureau American Community Survey.
That’s a concern for the biopharmaceutical industry, which depends on a diverse pool of STEM talent. It’s a concern for the U.S. economy, where the STEM workforce accounts for more than 50% of economic growth. It’s even a concern for the planet’s future, as nations seek to confront global scientific challenges demanding everyone’s abilities, from the next coronavirus to climate change.
“STEM is where the future is heading. It’s important we cultivate and encourage more women and girls to enter STEM careers, and support them all the way from the lab to the leadership team,” said McDonnell, who helps lead a STEM Council that guides the company’s outreach initiatives. “It’s in their interest and it’s in society’s interest.”