We are celebrating Women in STEM this Women’s History Month. Renee Fredericks shared her STEM story, some humor, and candor.
Tell us about your background.
Well, I have been a fan of science since the TV show Quincy which also led me to obtain a Master’s in Forensic Science -Biology. I worked in a soils lab in college and did some mixology as a bartender also during college. Since my wild and crazy days, I have been a Damage Controlman/Firefighter in the Navy; I have been an Environmental Coordinator for my Tribe – Georgetown Tribal Council and worked in the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in Anchorage, Alaska in the Youth Services dept that oversees and determines the programming of the Fab Lab.
What are you doing now? How has your previous experience shaped you as a professional?
I am currently the Sr. Director of the youth empowerment services (YES) department and I write grants, oversee the grants we receive, help to determine the path forward for our next programming, and strategic planning for the dept. I grew up in Alaska and I am Alaska Native but I spent half my formative years in South Dakota and my summers working construction. I really did have the best childhood- running around the hills outside of Fairbanks with my brother and 2 other family friends allowed us the freedom to explore, build, and be creative. As I began working in construction, my dad expected the same work from me as he did from my brother so I learned that I could do anything. I am naturally curious about people and how things work plus I like to find solutions and draw from all my acquired skills to find solutions. People skills are also important and bartending and the Navy life gave me a boatload of experience with a variety of people.
What have been some challenges you or other women you are familiar with face in the workforce?
One of my former bosses asked me why I have tattoos and color my hair (*purple) because those are reasons why people (men) might not take me seriously…to which I responded “I wake up everyday female and minority, you think my hair color and tattoos are the last thing that makes people underestimate me”.
What advice do you have for girls exploring the STEM fields?
Never give up, never listen to those who seek to tell you what you cannot do… instead find the people who always believe in you, inspire you to be more, who help remove hurdles…. Those are your people, keep them close.
It’s 2050 and we are living in a more equitable world where the underrepresentation of girls in STEM is no more, describe what that looks like or the kinds of things that have happened to get us there.
I think the continued efforts of people like Limor Fried, Sonya Pryor-Jones, Sherry Lassiter, Rachel Ignotosky and anyone who continues to engage in any facet of STEM, anyone who brings forth focus on women through history who have moved the STEM fields forward, anyone who supports true equality in the STEM fields is the people who will assist in leveling the playing field. And In 2050 it will be odd to consider that at one time, there were not many women in the STEM field so much so that there was a heavy focus to engage women.