When it comes to creating success in one’s career, sometimes the greatest obstacle can be ourselves. Lori Dawson has experienced this challenge firsthand. While her journey in the field of engineering began with the desire to solve complex problems by interacting and communicating with others, speaking up and using her voice was a struggle. As senior director of Engineering and Network Operations at U.S. Cellular, Dawson admits that very early in her career, she struggled with having confidence in her ability.
“I would often know the answer,” she recalls, “but hang back and allow others to speak and then I would speak up in support of their answer.”
Now, after learning to “jump in and speak up,” Lori Dawson understands the value of growing confidence in young people, and she is committed making learning opportunities available at an early age through the 4‑H/U.S. Cellular partnership.
She shared her insights on why it’s important for organizations to attract diversity in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, and how 4‑H and U.S. Cellular are working collectively on these efforts.
What do you think are the current barriers to achieving more diversity in STEM career fields?
Lori Dawson (LD): I believe one of the barriers to achieving more diversity in STEM career fields is the opportunities available at a young age. Today there are many opportunities to participate in various sporting events for young children but very limited opportunities for those interested in STEM. Children need STEM activities that are fun, challenging and rewarding to attract more diversity to the field.
What can organizations do to get more girls interested in STEM careers?
LD: I believe organizations can assist with attracting girls to STEM careers by allowing girls into the organization for job shadowing or internships. Also, organizations should strengthen their involvement in the community, bringing to life what STEM careers are available and the rewards that come with those careers.
Why do you think the 4‑H/U.S. Cellular partnership is critical for sparking STEM interest in youth? How has the partnership been successful?
LD: I see the partnership between 4‑H and U.S. Cellular as critical for the future of our youth and the success of U.S. Cellular. From a 4‑H perspective, U.S. Cellular can assist 4‑H in bringing to life STEM opportunities and U.S. Cellular will benefit from the future leaders that 4‑H is developing as they are our next technology leaders.
Recently, U.S. Cellular has ventured outside of their STEM partnership with 4‑H, now serving as a sponsor of the 2017 4‑H Youth in Action Award Citizenship Pillar. How does the topic of community service align with U.S. Cellular’s mission and values as an organization?
LD: Community service and involvement are the core to who U.S. Cellular is. The Engineering teams at U.S. Cellular live and work in the markets they serve. All associates are encouraged to get engaged in the communities where they live and work.
How do you think 4‑H is preparing today’s young people, particularly girls, to be leaders in life?
LD: I believe 4‑H has a history of developing strong leadership skills by developing, communication, and confidence in our youth. 4‑H assists our youth in developing and practicing critical thinking skills. 4‑H not only does this for young girls but all young people engaged in 4‑H.
What are your thoughts on ways we can encourage young women to pursue entrepreneurial and leadership opportunities?
LD: I think from a very young age we need to encourage young girls to actively participate in science and math classes. To reward their participation and challenge them to think differently. We also need to look for and encourage opportunities for young girls to get involved in activities such as 4‑H, Lego League, etc.
What is your vision for the next generation of women in STEM and leadership?
LD: I see the next generation of women in STEM leading the way for significant growth in technology. The technology marketplace is growing at a pace faster than ever, and I see women developing the vision and leading through the technology evolution.