At Gore, we rely upon strong technical depth to drive our technology and innovation efforts, as well as a deep understanding of our end-use applications. We draw upon a wide array of disciplines within STEM education to support our success. And as a company with strong Delaware roots, we know that we will only grow stronger as part of a community that values STEM education and that builds the minds needed to solve tomorrow’s scientific challenges.
Countless studies have shown how vital STEM education is for our children and the future of our society and our national and global economies. STEM occupations are growing at a faster rate than other fields, and STEM workers play a critical role in fueling innovation and economic growth. Yet we also know that U.S. students lag internationally in science and math scores and that gender and racial disparities remain common in these fields.
As I reflect on my own personal career at Gore, I clearly benefited from having a strong STEM education, which helped lay the foundation for future opportunities. When I graduated from the University of Delaware in 1983 as a mechanical engineer, women represented only around six percent of U.S. engineers. Today, around 18 to 20 percent of engineering students are women—a significant improvement, yet still notably low considering that roughly 57 percent of college students are female.
A vast majority of teenagers are discouraged from pursuing STEM careers because they do not know anyone who works in these areas and don’t have a clear picture of the work done in these fields. And women and minorities in particular are less likely to choose a STEM career and have less support for pursuing these careers.
Fortunately, those of us in STEM careers today have the ability to inspire the scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians of tomorrow. I am proud to see many of our Gore associates involved in STEM activities in their communities, mentoring and encouraging students in these subjects. We cannot underestimate the important role mentoring plays in inspiring students to explore STEM opportunities.
Indeed, studies show that when STEM mentors engage with students in high-quality, hands-on learning experiences, the impact can extend long beyond their time together. It builds confidence, curiosity and excitement in students who otherwise may never have pictured themselves in a STEM career. And when students have positive and engaging experiences with STEM subjects in their schooling, they are more likely to pursue and have success in those fields in adulthood.
It is encouraging to see the growing support for STEM in schools today and efforts to better engage with those underrepresented in these fields. These students represent our future, and will one day create new treatments for debilitating diseases, develop technologies that enhance people’s lives, and so much more. And it all starts with the right encouragement and learning opportunities.
Terri Kelly is President and CEO of W.L. Gore & Associates, a multi-billion dollar enterprise that employs more than 10,000 associates in 45 plants around the world. Gore specializes in fluoropolymerbased materials that are utilized in a wide array of high-value products, including GORE-TEX® fabric, medical devices, filtration and venting products and many other advanced technology solutions. Gore is as well known for its unique management philosophy and culture, as for its multitude of unique products. Kelly joined Gore as an engineer in 1983 after graduating summa cum laude from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. In her early years with the company, she gained experience as a product specialist with the military fabrics business — a unit she eventually led — helping it grow from a small start-up venture into a leading producer of protective products for the global armed forces. In 1998, Kelly became part of the leadership team for the global Fabrics Division. Prior to becoming the CEO, Kelly also served on the Enterprise Operations Committee working closely with the CEO and other leaders to help guide the strategic direction of the company. Kelly’s leadership abilities have driven her success in a company known for its non-hierarchical “lattice” structure. At Gore, associates become leaders based on their ability to gain the respect of their peers and to attract followers. Terri earned the title of president and CEO in 2005 — one of the few titles within the enterprise — following a peer-driven selection process. In addition to her role at Gore, Kelly is on the Board of Directors for the Nemours Foundation — one of the nation’s leading children’s health care systems. She serves on the Board of Trustees for the University of Delaware. Kelly is a member of the Management Executives’ Society, G100, and the International Women’s Forum. She resides in Delaware with her husband and four children.