By Shelly Kapoor Collins
Founder and CEO of Enscient Corporation
Council Member, National Women’s Business Council
National Women’s History month is about gratitude and honor. Gratitude for our founding mothers who led by example so that future generations of women can pursue their dreams of liberty and justice. As benefactors of their tremendous efforts and daring, women today must honor those courageous women who came before us and pay it forward. We must recognize that women of our generation need to pave the way and encourage young women to dream big and develop the critical skills they need to fuel tomorrow’s innovation economy, which is rooted in a STEM education.
The path to innovation starts early. With technology anything is possible and if you look around through a tech lens, everything is an opportunity for automation. Innovation is about creativity which leads to new technologies which is tied directly to starting businesses and creating jobs. To breed this culture of creativity, we have to focus on our future innovators. We have to enable them with the right tools in order to build our talent pipeline of critical thinkers here in our country. Our pipeline of talent will be our strongest asset as we prepare to compete in tomorrow’s global competitive workforce. The innovation economy is not just about learning math and science, it’s about a new way of thinking where creation through innovation is a mindset.
But, young girls of today cannot be what they can’t see and that is why female role models are critical. Just as women have done for hundreds of years before us, women mentors of today can play a critical role in opening doors for young women to careers in STEM. We have the power to lead by example through our influence, careers and experiences and actually connect the dots for our young protégées. We can show them firsthand how an education rooted in STEM is the path to innovation, financial freedom and better decision making. Women think differently and when we are at the decision making table we prioritize everyone fairly, not just a select few. We make decisions to benefit the greater good. Whether it’s in law enforcement, politics, business, food production, or fashion, to name a few, critical thinking skills are required across the board and young girls of today need to be taught how to acquire these important skills.
We can’t leave to chance or luck the opportunities of our future generations and just hope that they’ll figure things out. Household names such as Sheryl Sandberg and Marisa Mayer do exist but they did not develop by accident, and neither will the next generation of great Tech minds or business geniuses.
My path to Silicon Valley started well before I moved there 14 years ago. It started when I was 5 years old and my mom sat with me every day to teach me multiplication. I was in kindergarten. Today, I am doing the same thing with my 6 year old daughter. I’m teaching her how to multiply but I’m teaching her in a way which makes her want to learn, grabs her interest and makes it fun for her. We are counting Oreo cookies together. As mentors, we need to be approachable and able to teach young girls in a manner which they will relate to and which will build their confidence from an early age.
Women mentors of today need to be a clear representation of what young girls can aspire to. And, young girls today have to think big, and they have to be encouraged and inspired to do so. Women are the best multi-taskers out there, we are capable of maintaining all competing priorities at #1. As women of influence and innovators of today, we need to be door openers and not gate keepers for future generations and help them put the pieces in place starting yesterday. We need to carry and pass the torch to honor those who came before us, and those who are yet to develop into tomorrow's leaders.
Shelly is a technology entrepreneur and founder of Enscient Corporation, specializing in Security and Business Development for the Public Sector. As CEO, Shelly combined her two passions, politics and technology, to launch Root Square, an innovative fundraising platform using gaming to enable political candidates and non-profits to raise funds across social media sites.