An Advocate for Women in STEM - in conversation with Velma Deleveaux, PhD

Velma Deleveaux

In every rung of leadership, and in most industries, especially those related to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), women are still underrepresented. In 2018, more men named ‘Michael’ gave presentations at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference than all-female CEOs put together. Sounds almost unbelievable…

However, there are women today fighting for women’s advancement in STEM, and who are making major advancements in this field. One such woman is Velma Deleveaux. Velma works toward cultivating environments that are inclusive and diverse for women in STEM. Today we are in conversation with Velma to learn more about her efforts, her connection to STEM, and her vision and purpose. Velma has held several roles — managing partner, corporate leader, cybersecurity professional, consultant, and board member.

Why are you concerned and how do you apply your passion for women’s advancement, STEM and equity in your work as an advisor, board director and speaker?

“My personal journey from “Crooked Island to Corporate America” has been filled with adventure, surprises, fun and challenges. It’s been worth it — and a key reason is STEM. Through my own experience, I know that STEM careers offer an avenue to uplift the lives of women, minorities, and communities. I’m an advocate for Women’s empowerment and a STEM champion because I believe that we “can and must” solve the myriad of human challenges in key areas such as medicine, climate change, renewable energy and supply chain resilience. These challenges are immense, urgent and require all hands-on deck, or rather “all minds-on deck”. We can’t afford to leave good ideas on the table as these problems affect our livelihood and survival.

“I am also concerned about the US’ National Competitiveness in STEM, especially in R&D. This is one of the reasons why I have worked with STEM-focused organizations and K-12 leaders to address the STEM Pipeline challenge over the last 30 years. We simply must get more people into the STEM pipeline and then significantly reduce pipeline leakage/departures.

“As a recent speaker for Women’s Business Collaborative’s Catalyzing the Future: Rethinking Women’s Leadership in Business conference, I participated in a “Women and STEM Success” panel discussion with other STEM women leaders. I used this communications platform to share strategies about how women can re-invent themselves, access resources, and pursue new careers in growth areas such as cybersecurity. As a member of my community, I continue to speak at middle schools and high schools, partnering with other STEM leaders to encourage our youth to pursue STEM related careers. As a business leader, I continue to mentor women entrepreneurs personally and have mentored women formerly through organizations such as Million Women Mentors; and I have served in board roles such as the Advisory Board for DevMar Manufacturing.

In your opinion, what more can be done to accelerate the progress of Women and Minorities in STEM?

I believe as a community of STEM leaders, champions, supporters and parents we must change attitudes and take new actions. Here are a few that I think are key:

  • Envision and advocate for a future that encompasses multi-disciplinary teams of diverse talent with different thoughts, perspectives & experiences
  • Make STEM personal to students in order to motivate interests and enhance “stickiness”.
  • Help students find a problem that matters to them, their family or the community
  • Encourage curiosity and support student efforts to solve these problems. It is affirming and builds confidence!
  • Include more immersive and hands-on activities
  • Celebrate and reward teamwork in the service of better solutions.
  • Involve more parents in STEM by creating programs and activities with them in mind, given that many parents don’t feel qualified or comfortable supporting STEM students.
  • Conduct more research to identify programs and partnership models that work.”

Thanks for sharing your efforts, Velma.

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