09 Sep Stepping Up for STEM: Engineer Madeline Ryder on finding women mentors in STEM
“My generation is a product of a lot of hard work done by women before us. Be confident in what you do and actively find other women who are similar positions and situations as you are.”
— Madeline Ryder
Madeline Ryder knows a thing or two about being a woman in STEM. A native Texan, she became a mechanical engineer and started in the oil and gas industry in 2015. At the time, she was the ONLY female in the whole southeast region of her company. Her supervisor’s first piece of advice? “Work twice as hard because you are a female and need to prove yourself.”
That’s certainly NOT the advice that Madeline Ryder offers other young women as a member of Lumity’s Associate Board. Instead, she advises: find a good female mentor. “My generation is a product of a lot of hard work done by women before us. I tell young women to be confident in what they do and actively find other women who are similar positions and situations as you are,” says Madeline.
In fact, Madeline’s own mentor helped her navigate the difficult conversation she subsequently had with her first supervisor. “We ended up having a hard, but good, conversation that helped us understand each other better,” Madeline shares. “I felt that he was setting unrealistic expectations for my performance; he was concerned that other engineers wouldn’t respect me.”
As a member of Lumity’s Associate Board, Madeline Ryder is now “paying it forward” as a mentor and volunteer, helping Chicagoland’s young women (and men!) pursue STEM careers themselves. Our Associate Board and its events—such as the recent online Yoga for a Cause—are also a terrific way for STEM women professionals to network with each other. As Madeline explains, “It’s a really special way to build your professional community beyond your own company.”
Among the advice she offers young people is that STEM has many fields and types of jobs. “If you are even a little interested in it, explore it,” says Madeline, who has now transitioned to becoming a software developer herself because she was attracted to the industry’s fast pace and focus on innovation. “We don’t know what jobs the future will hold. There are roles today that didn’t even have names a few years ago. There are so many STEM-adjacent careers, or non-tech roles within STEM, that you don’t need a software engineer to be successful.”