Women in Stem

A Letter From A #STEMReturner: Dear Aunt Inclusion

Dear Aunt Inclusion,

You looked fantastic at the conference the other day.  You and Uncle Diversity have made real progress in so many industries and populations and kudos to you for the starting effort in the energy industry.   It’s been a while since we’ve connected so I thought I’d send you a message to share what I’ve been up to. 

You Did It Once, You Can Do It Again

The need for my career pause has ended and I knew your first bit of advice would be to refresh my knowledge and skills.  You didn’t tell me how energizing it would be to join other professionals enrolled in the award-winning Architecture and Systems Engineering Certificate Program delivered by MIT’s continuing education platform, MIT xPRO.  During this course, I am applying these modern approaches to building solutions for the complex problems and challenges that still remain in the oil and gas industry—all from a table at my local Starbucks. 

Refreshed Perspectives

I am so excited to bring this systems-thinking to oil and gas; I know so many disciplines need this, and I can’t wait to get started.  This girl you took under your wing way back when is so excited to rejoin my peers at work. Kind of like life on the elementary school playground, I’ve just got to find a corporate buddy this time. 

Industry Wins When Women Choose STEM

The contributions I made to my company were significant, consistent and credible; I thank you for your support during this journey.  I remember, Aunt Inclusion, as you and Uncle Diversity cheered me on as I signed up with the boys to participate in science fairs elementary through high school.  You were there on stage with me when I was awarded the Grand Prize trophy at the Coastal Bend Science Fair for my project on the impacts of chemicals on well water.  Uncle Diversity gave me a high five as I accepted my President’s Scholarship with Georgia Tech to study Chemical Engineering. You were the little voice in me, while working on a magnificent pipe-lay vessel in the Gulf of Mexico that said I had what it took to dive into graduate school for an MSC in Subsea Engineering and work to solve complex problems 6,000 feet under the sea.  You gave me choices and I chose STEM!

The Power of Training

The training my employer invested in me was incredible.  I was trained upside, sideways and upside down in the various functions and disciplines (subsurface, drilling, subsea, topsides and risk management, HSSE, project services) required to safely produce hydrocarbons; and it was through this diversity in skills that I found my passion for systems engineering. 

Inclusion and Diversity Get the Job Done

Whether it be offshore supervising an intervention on subsea equipment, huddled in the onshore control room collaborating with operators offshore to bring a tricky well back online, or any of the other countless experiences, I had a job to do. 

Women in STEM Mindset

In the same way that I played child advocate for my little ones, I am now equipped to play systems advocate on the project team or in an operations environment.  Cousin Discrimination claims that all this knowledge and skill has left; but alas I am so lucky to have both of you to remind me otherwise. You are the positivity that enables my skills and knowledge to continue to expand and find new applications in new areas. 

Inclusion is for All Ages and Stages

I know you have a lot of women in my shoes and we continue to work together to close the gender gap.  Please remind the others to offer encouragement through practice interviews, creation of a committee in your professional organization to explore solutions, or simply by reaching out to your STEM returner friend and asking how you can help.  Actions speak louder than the polite ‘Good Luck’ commonly offered.  As I listen to the drum you are beating to attract young girls into the STEM workforce, it brings back a feeling of nostalgia because I know you intend this march to be for women of all ages and all stages of life.

Patch the Talent Pipeline

Through #STEMReturners you have enabled me to find resilience in the buffet of strengths I bring to the table.  Whether it is in subsea or another important segment of the energy industry, I encourage all to come and join the conversation; let’s talk about getting women back to work.  Let’s patch the talent pipeline leak and find ways to be more inclusive of STEM returners.

Let’s commit to maintaining this momentum that was started with D&I so many years ago.  I am evidence it works and will continue to work! 

You helped us make big system changes in 1920, please help us return to paid work in 2020.

We can do it,

Christine McIntyre Faulkner


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