It is no secret that today, women are significantly underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (Source), even though they represent almost half of the United States workforce (Source).
In 2008 only 33% of female employed STEM professionals were chemists and materials scientists. Only 20% were computer software engineers, and a low 7% were electrical and mechanical engineers (Source).
These low percentages do not even touch the even lower female representation among minorities and the dropping rate of female involvement that will likely hit STEM industries post-covid.
The low rate of women in STEM careers is due to various reasons, such as lesser opportunity due to social roles, social stigmas, and a general lack of interest. But in particular, one reason speaks to the core issue that keeps a higher number of women from taking on STEM careers – role models and examples of the women who went before.
To grow female enthusiasm for the STEM field, women need to prove that their perspectives can and will shape the future. They must prove that their diversity of thought, abilities, and experience adds to the overall positive change and innovation in our lifetime.
"If we don't promote women who are in leadership roles or are leaders in male dominate fields, then we can't help younger women envision what they could be. They need to see themselves represented through the examples of other women to want to strive to obtain those roles," said Corrie Olson, Infuzion Solutions Owner and CEO.
As a businesswoman who has overcome gender adversity to acquire and build a technology company over ten years ago, Corrie continues to blaze trails with her Knoxville-based technology business. Corrie and her team of accounting and IT specialists, project managers, and consultants are utilizing technology to keep businesses on the "technology-train" by implementing software solutions to complement business processes.
"Growing up, I would have never known that what we do [at Infuzion Solutions] even existed as a job option," Corrie shared. "Only in the latest generations do we have STEM programs in school."
Corrie began her path into the male-dominant wine and spirits distribution industry after a local distributor saw potential in her skills. He believed in a new solution she was developing for the wine and spirits industry that would target gaps that out-of-the-box enterprise resource planning (ERP) software typically left open.
She understood the complicated and detailed specifications of the wine and spirits industry and pushed the limits to build a Microsoft Dynamics GP solution to fit distributors' needs.
Today, the software is called Infuzion®. It is specifically made for the niche group of wine and spirits distributors to grasp their data in an industry full of complex regulations and processes.
Her passion for solving real problems, innovating, and building relationships has made way for the current company, which employs 17 individuals and maintains exclusive partnerships with over 15 wine and spirits distributors around the nation. Her team also supports over 50 businesses as their Microsoft partner.
But being a strong businesswoman and company owner does not come without its unique challenges in today's day and age.
As a proud wife and mother of two, she said that her family sacrificed a lot when building the company. She also shared that being the CEO of a company meant that she did not necessarily hold the traditional "mom role," which offered its own set of hurdles.
But despite the challenges, her role as a successful businesswoman has offered a distinct perspective to her children that other families may not understand.
"Now that my kids are older, it is nice to hear how much it meant to them to see me build the company when it was not common in their friend groups for their mom to be the CEO or owner of a company," she said.
According to Corrie, these social reasons can be why women tend to shy away from opportunities that historically were reserved for men.
"Women do not know how to take a seat at the table when it looks like the table is not meant for them," Corrie said.
She was "fortunate to have amazing male role models that cleared the way for [her] to have a seat at the table," as well as parents who built the confidence she needed when faced with being the only woman seated at the table.
Corrie is a rarity within the technology industry, considering only 15% of women hold CEO positions or prominent leadership positions within STEM industries (source).
According to Corrie, the STEM field's lack of role models dissuades many women's desires to fill those STEM positions due to missing perspectives and a lopsided view of which gender is capable of what. She believes that often, although not always, women tend to keep themselves from opportunities, which is why female examples are so crucial to the industry's growth.
"Women leaders can show how to lead without sacrificing femininity, and they can embrace what is so special about being a woman – our troubleshooting, problem-solving, communication, and leadership, among many other qualities. Women mentoring those leadership skills in other women means a lot because we can relate to how we juggle home, kids, family, and work. Encouraging women to pursue building skills in higher-paid careers is important. Women need a support system to walk with and be mentored by to help network and clear that seat at the table," Corrie said.
As for Corrie's company (Infuzion Solutions), her leadership team is passionate about developing an environment that honors and encourages the underrepresented women in STEM occupations, specifically in technology, to further advance the industry through the complementing skill sets of both women and men.
"I do not feel women are better or more important than men, but they add value and provide an important partnership with men that makes an organization and an industry stronger," Corrie said.
Although the national average reveals women are only filling 27% of STEM jobs, at Infuzion Solutions, women account for half the team. They lead the company and work in technology and supportive administrative positions.
Corrie and her leadership set an example for fellow women that the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics industries do hold valuable professions for them. Her example proves that women leaders and contributors are needed in these spaces to provide their unique perspectives and talents when partnering with men to build a better future.
In fact, Corrie's example proves to women that they, too, can develop their own technology company one day.