Updated: Mar 31, 2021
Everyone can encourage diversity and inclusion – not just in spirit, but also in action and as part of their everyday work. - Angela Sheffield
What advice do you have for Women in STEM?
To everyone, but especially to young women in science, I say: Be bold. You are brilliant and your ideas are clever. We need you to express them and make sure you are heard – your ideas will transform the world.
The data shows that our environments fail to be inclusive of women: they are discouraged from speaking up and there is a bias against listening to them. Women in STEM know from experience that the data does not lie.
There is a phrase we often say in the National Laboratory Complex: “I know I’m not the smartest in the room…” I said that too when I first began as a researcher at PNNL. I sat in rooms full of other people who I considered the smartest in there, and someone would drop an intense science question or an unanswered national security challenge into the middle of this room full of very smart people. And no one would budge. No one would jump on it. No one shared ideas on how to address it. After watching that happen for a while and waiting for the “smarter” people to jump on the problem and lead the rest of us to a solution, I started to do it myself. I still felt like an imposter, and I was still intimidated, but I had an idea and a strategy to get it done. And none of the people I was intimidated by were trying.
I have a bias for action in my strategy for AI and my approach to inclusive diversity. Everyone can encourage diversity and inclusion – not just in spirit, but also in action and as part of their everyday work.
For example, we commit to balanced gender representation in our AI workshops, across all different parts of the team. Researchers and managers at every level can commit to including women and underrepresented groups in STEM at balanced rates that match the demographics of the United States. Opportunities include project teams, focus groups, interview panels, review boards, seminars and brown bags with invited speakers, and external conferences.
When you can’t think of someone to include from an underrepresented group in a particular area of STEM, ask a colleague for a recommendation. Broaden the pool of candidates and expand your network so you are ready for the next opportunity to be inclusive.
Angela is a strategic leader driving transformational change across the U.S. government in the most pressing issues of national security importance: foreign nuclear weapons proliferation and AI.
She leads the U.S. government’s premier program to develop artificial intelligence (AI) systems to transform national security and fulfill mission requirements across the U.S. government to prevent nuclear weapons proliferation and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism. Angela directs research and development (R&D) efforts at the DOE National Laboratories, and in academia and industry, to advance the state-of-the-art and develop next-generation AI technologies suitable for national security missions.
You can read more about her story in one of her most recent interviews: www.energy.gov/nnsa/articles/meet-female-veteran-working-stem-shape-artificial-intelligence-nuclear-weapons