Local female leaders in industry and healthcare are speaking about what led them to their careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Last week, Austin College’s Center for Workplace learning played host to a forum and discussion on women in STEM leadership positions.

Friday’s talk was hosted by the Emerson Women in STEM Chapter as one of the groups first events. For the event, organizers gathered four leaders from across North Texas to discuss their work in STEM fields that led them into leadership positions.

“The mission for our group is we want to attract, develop and retain,” Board Chair Taylor Claiborne said. “We are here to attract young people to careers in STEM fields, we want to develop them and give them the skills they need to succeed, and we want to retain them and make sure they remain in the field.”

Denison Mayor Janet got spoke about her 38 years of experience in manufacturing that included tenures with with Johns Manville and BAG Corp, where she retired as vice president of global operations.

“I had a different journey than probably most of you I was out of high school 13 years before I went to college,” Gott said. “I got a bachelor’s degree in Industrial management and business, but it didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t want to sit behind a desk and figure out what somebody else is doing.

“I wanted to get out and make things happen. So back to school to get an industrial engineering degree.”

Raquel Armstrong, who serves as the neonatal ICU nurse manager for JPS Hospital in Fort Worth. Armstrong, who has worked as a nurse for 27 years said it took her a decade to move up from an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree.

“At that point in time, when you got your masters it was for teaching,” she said. “I knew that was not my forte and knew that wasn’t my journey.”

Armstrong received her doctorate in nursing in 2019.

Stacey Jones currently serves as the executive vice president of the Sherman Economic Development Corp. and has served two stints in economic development. During the discussion, Jones said she learned important and valuable lessons during low points in her career.

“I learned that being laid off is not as devastating as it may appear at first,” Jokes said. “It happened to me one time. I met people along the way during that career that defined your value and its at a point when you get laid off that you don’t really see that value as maybe you should. They opened my eyes up to economic development.”

Other topics for the discussion included how each speaker stepped into a leadership position as a woman without alienating others or themselves.

“You notice that I am a different generation than everyone else,” Gott said. “They obviously know that when I was coming up through my career it was not at a time when women were in leadership roles. In those days, I knew that I had to work harder than any man … and produce more in order to be seen at the same level.

“Thankfully, that is not the way it is now.”

Gott and the other speakers also encouraged listeners stepping into these positions to not view themselves as the best woman for the position but instead as the best person for the job.