Promoting Women Entrepreneurs and Encouraging Inclusive Investors, with Dr. Heather Metcalf – Ep #47

Dr. Heather Metcalf is the Chief Research Officer at the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). Metcalf is Project Lead on the STEM to Market and Advanced Resource and Coordination Network initiatives. She has extensive experience leading the empirical intersection between work and gender in the STEM fields. 

The social sciences and STEM fields each have their own ways of thinking. Having immersed herself in both computer science and gender studies, which are fields with two traditionally distinct mindsets, Heather has a unique, well-rounded experience that informs her professional life and the initiatives she leads. 

Heather completed her postdoctoral research at the University of Arizona where she holds a patent on training materials for effective search and hiring processes. Heather got her PhD in Higher Education - Science and Technology Policy at The University of Arizona, where she also earned her Master’s in Gender and Women’s Studies. In addition, Heather completed an MS in Computer Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [1:02] Introduction to Heather Metcalf, PhD
  • [5:22] Having two different focuses during her education gave Heather a well-rounded approach to both fields
  • [8:13] How the career and experience of Heather’s mom informed her work
  • [9:37] Advice for those who are the first in their family to attend college, and the challenges that Heather faced as the first in her family to attend
  • [14:52] The First Culture Study Heather implemented in her Master’s degree, and her thoughts on the results
  • [23:28] The STEM to Market initiative Dr. Metcalf is leading

Connect with Heather Metcalf 

The best of both worlds

Many people spend their entire educational and professional careers immersed in either qualitative-based areas or the science and technology fields. During the educational process for quantitative professions in STEM, sometimes communication and non-technical writing skills can end up being undervalued, even if it isn’t intentional.

For Dr. Metcalf, those areas did not seem so separate. As she mentions in the interview, endeavors such as writing an argument aren’t so much different from making a proof in mathematics or creating an algorithm. Even more important is the need for scientists to be better at communicating complex and important issues such as climate change to a sometimes skeptical public. 

Unconscious bias from investors

Becoming an entrepreneur is a difficult endeavor that involves a high amount of risk. For those who have great ideas but find themselves without the capital to bring them to fruition, the task can seem insurmountable. The solution for most startup entrepreneurs is to find investors to help them realize their dream. 

As Heather talks about this week, many investors have an inherent bias against women startup founders. More often than ideal, when women are seeking capital, investors tend to ask them questions about risk. Conversely, they tend to ask men questions about promotion and growth. As Heather points out, women receive less than 2% of Venture Capital investing, and women of color receive even less, at one-half of one percent. That is the goal of the STEM to Market initiative, to help promote STEM women entrepreneurs and cultivate inclusive investors.

Learn more about Dr. Heather Metcalf and her work by listening to this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

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