Marketing and innovative guru Kelly Hoey has teamed up with the YWCA of the City of New York as the Chief Technology Ambassador for Geek Girls and STEM initiatives. Her expertise and endless energy will play a key role in propelling us to new heights.
She took the time to answer a few questions about STEM and her career exclusively for the YW.
1. Why is STEM so important for girls in New York City?
This is where some of the most exciting career opportunities are in New York City. There is no sector of the New York City economy which is not being touched by technology: advertising, financial services, publishing, fashion, retail, beauty, education, health, government and the talent who should be leading as those business models are transformed are digital natives. Looking at retail for example, ecommerce is one of the fastest growing retail subsectors. Why be the salesperson when you can be the person creating the technology every salesperson in New York City (and elsewhere) will be using? Technology is also enabling more people to start their own companies. Any girl with a dream of being the next Elizabeth Holmes (founder of blood testing company, Theranos) or Sara Blakely (founder of Spanx) has a lower barrier of entry as the costs of starting a company have been drastically lowered because of technology.
2. How can NGOs and tech companies work together to improve the persistence of women in STEM?
To get girls into STEM they need to see not only the immediate job opportunities, but the possibilities (role models) and to get them to stay, they need mentors and career champions. The Geek Girls Club is a great example of where this can all start. The YWCA has a motivated group of girls who are eager to learn about opportunities in technology and to gain the knowledge and skills required. Tech companies and their employees hold all that information and can transfer it to the girls by actively engaging in mentoring, providing internships, and by leading career info sessions and coding workshops. The relationships the girls need to fuel their STEM careers (role models and mentors) starts during the Girls Geek Club.
3. What made you take the entrepreneurial leap from law to innovation and technology?
That’s a good question! Every career opportunity for me has come about because of strong mentors and professional networks which cut across a variety of industries. My entrepreneurial leap from the legal world happened in 2009 when Janet Hanson, the founder of women’s networking group 85 Broads (now Ellevate) asked me if I’d be interested in working with her. Two years later, I co-founded Women Innovate Mobile, a startup accelerator focused on investing in and accelerating the growth of mobile startups founded by women. My two co-founders (Deborah Jackson, founder of Plumalley.co and Veronika Sonsev, co-founder of InSparq) originally reached out to me because my name kept coming up when they asked people “who should do this with us?”. These factors which have influenced my career (mentoring and networks) are why I am so committed to the YWCA’s programming for girls.
4. If you had to choose, what was your favorite start-up/project that you’ve worked on or supported?
Each “career” I’ve had has been an opportunity to learn new skills and to lay the path for future professional opportunities. And I’m fortunate as I do love everything I’m working on. Yes, I’m using the journalist interview trick of avoiding the question…. Two things have been a catalyst for my current career: Pipeline Fellowship (program to get more women to become angel investors) and co-founding Women Innovate Mobile. Pipeline provided a decision-making jolt of confidence and Women Innovate Mobile opened the floodgates to meet incredible women (and men) globally who are in STEM. I’m indebted for both of these experiences.
5. If you could give any advice to a teenage girl in STEM, what would it be?
Stick to it! The long-term benefits greatly outweigh any immediate downside. To succeed in any profession you need to work hard, but in STEM the possibilities are endless as to what you can achieve. STEM is truly a career that is only limited by imagination.