Empowering Women in Tech

March 8, 2024

Women represented just 29.2% of all STEM workers despite making up almost half (49.3%) of total employment across non-STEM occupations, according to WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023. At SandboxAQ, we are addressing this gender gap by developing a culture that empowers women and diverse groups, which we believe is critical to advancing the AI and quantum (AQ) ecosystem. We’re proud that women represent nearly 50% of our senior leadership positions.

In honor of International Women's Day and Women's History Month, we’re spotlighting the invaluable contributions of the incredibly talented women at SandboxAQ by sharing insights from their experiences in the tech industry. As an example, Vice President of Product Nadia Carlsten gave several keynotes on how quantum and AI technologies are transforming our world, and Research Mathematician Tai-Danae Bradley co-hosted the fAQ podcast on all things AQ. These women share a commitment to empowering and supporting other women, along with a strong dedication to diversity and inclusion. 

Earlier this year, Senior Advisor Kelly Richdale contributed to the World Economic Forum’s Quantum Economy Blueprint, utilizing her expertise to develop a guide for policy-makers, industry, and academia to build a quantum ecosystem, focusing on economic growth, job creation, and responsible development. Kelly also participated in the GSMA Post Quantum Telco Network, which recently published the Post Quantum Cryptography – Guidelines for Telecom Use Cases document. This provides best practice guidelines to support the journey to quantum-safe cryptography in the context of the telecom ecosystem.

Reflections from the Women at SandboxAQ

Schatem Boyd, Principal Account Executive, Intelligence and National Security
Can you share a moment in your career where you felt particularly empowered as a woman in tech?
My very first job in tech, I actually worked for two female leaders. I was switching careers and was a fish out of water. I was afraid of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, you name it, I doubted it. These two women not only mentored me but they gave me a seat at the table. They let me take ownership of my role, they trusted me and when I faltered, they collaborated with me on how things could have been done better. This empowered me to trust myself and was foundational in my career in tech. They are both dear friends to this day.

Sandra Guasch, Staff Privacy Engineer
Who are some women in tech that you admire, and why?
Without any doubt, I admire my PhD advisor, Paz Morillo. She is bright, determined, and a force of nature that makes great projects happen. For example, an ongoing initiative in Barcelona called “Una enginyera a cada escola” – that can be translated as “one (female) engineer at every school,” where female engineers give talks at primary schools about their jobs and education to serve as inspiration for the kids. Recently, I discovered Sofía Trejo, who is focused on the ethical, social, political and cultural dimensions of AI. Topics that are not very openly discussed in general but that should be taken into consideration when designing AI systems.

Read her paper, To attest or not to attest, this is the question – Provable attestation in FIDO2, co-authored by Nina Bindel, Nicolas Gama, and Eyal Ronen. 

Nadia Harhen, General Manager, Simulation & Optimization
Can you imagine a world in which cellphones were only designed to be held comfortably by a man's hands and the voice assistant didn't respond to a woman's command? It may seem like we've come a long way, but it wasn't until 1993 that women were mandated by law to be included in drug clinical trials in the USA. The products we can't yet dream of will come with challenges and ethics that will require people of all representations to come together to solve. Those solutions will invariably be made better if we can manage as a society to creep the bar up beyond 30% for women in tech.

Listen to Nadia’s recent podcast interview, The Bio Report: Beefing Up Computational Muscle to Understand Molecular Activity of Drug Candidates.

Karissa Kennedy, Technical Recruiter
What does it mean to you to connect with other women in tech? Most of my job is forming strong relationships with candidates, hiring managers and teams, with cross-functional partners, and, of course, with my own team to work together to crush our hiring goals. Connecting with other women in tech has meant some of the most meaningful friendships of my life, foundational mentorship and learning, and radical candor and empathy that has shaped who I’ve become in my career. 

Sheenam Khuttan, Post-Doc, Simulation & Optimization
What does it mean to you to connect with other women in tech?
It's empowering. Current statistics show that women still just make up 29% of the tech workforce, but it's also important to appreciate that it's gotten better since the early 2000s when women were actually a minority in tech, representing just 9% of the workforce. I feel fortunate to have gotten to connect with women on my team at SandboxAQ, at school, or just from my friend circle where they have been making remarkable contributions. It convinces me that knowledge isn't dictated by gender biases as long as you possess the spark and fearlessness.

Ly Le, Computational Medicinal Chemist
Why do you think it’s important for women to work in tech?
My mother grew up in Vietnam during a time when only males were granted access to university education. Despite these challenges, she worked tirelessly to provide me with the opportunity to pursue my education in the United States and follow my passion for science. In my career, I have trained several young male scientists. As you can see, the presence of more women in the tech industry not only fosters innovation but also creates more inclusive opportunities for everyone.

Favour Nerrise, AI Resident - Quantum Sensing (Navigation)
My professional experiences have been overwhelmingly impacted by positive women who have helped cultivate my interests and nurtured my growth. During my undergraduate years, I was mentored by many incredible scientists and engineers, such as Dr. Hannah Kerner (Assistant Professor at School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, Arizona State University), Dr. Kiri Wagstaff (AAAS Congressional Fellow in Artificial Intelligence), Dr. Michelle Bensi (Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Center for Risk and Reliability, University of Maryland-College Park), Dr. Leilani Battle (Assistant Professor in the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington), and Joyce D. Williams (Director of Client Services at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency). While working on several research projects with them, I learned to be curious, to strive for collaboration, and to seek interdisciplinary research opportunities at the edge of the bubble. Most importantly, I learned how it feels to be holistically supported; they went above and beyond their means to encourage and support my pursuits for academia. I owe so much to their expertise, their commitment, and their steadfast authenticity.

Mary Pitman, Principal Research Scientist, Drug Discovery
Why do you think it’s important for women to work in tech?
​​Education is the actual great equalizer. Women disproportionately face issues that can be challenging to overcome without financial freedom. STEM training puts the power back into the hands of girls and women to direct their own lives. We all stand to benefit from more women entering the field. We've got big tech and medical puzzles to crack, with the demand for innovation only growing. We need to put all of our best minds on these problems.

Kayla Quinnies, Program Manager, Residency Operations
Is your current role something you intended to pursue, and how did you get here?
No, this isn’t quite something I set out to do. I have a research background and during my PhD and postdoc, I always enjoyed community-facing work but did it mostly on the side. At some point, I realized that I could do it full-time. Being on the Education team at SandboxAQ and getting to work with a community as unique and amazing as the Residency Program isn’t where I imagined my path leading, but I’m very happy it did.

Alison Rugar, Post-Doc, Quantum Sensing 
Who are some women in tech that you admire, and why?
My friends! My closest friends are also women in tech. They are brilliant, resilient, and driven while also being humble, kind, and compassionate. We have supported each other through the ups and downs of school, life, and work.

Claire Sarpel, Enterprise Account Executive
I am lucky to be among the breadth of talent and brilliance that each woman at SandboxAQ emanates. I stumbled into a career in tech over 15 years ago with a public relations writing degree and haven't looked back since. I would not still be here today if it weren't for the inspiring female leaders that took me under their wing. Mentoring is an opportunity to create oneself, a brain to pick and a push in the right direction.

Chris Willis, Lead Technical Writer
Advice to a young woman considering a tech career:
Embrace uncertainty as a gateway to innovation and opportunity. Remember, the technologies shaping your future may not yet exist! Stay curious and actively seek out new and unexpected challenges. Be flexible and willing to pivot, even as you master your craft. The evolving tech landscape may disrupt your career plans, but overcoming each obstacle will ultimately contribute to your growth and long-term success.

These stories embody the empowerment and resilience crucial for advancing the tech industry, and we are incredibly proud to have these women as part of our team.

If you are interested in joining SandboxAQ’s growing and diverse workforce, we’d love to hear from you.

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