When it comes to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), it’s no secret that women remain significantly underrepresented—both in higher education and in the workforce. According to STEM Women, as of 2022, women accounted for only 26% of STEM professionals. Although this number represents a gradual increase over several decades, at the current rate of growth, it will be 2070 before women and men are equally represented in STEM fields. 

Recently, Voices of Hult, a podcast showcasing inspiring narratives from within the Hult community, highlighted the barriers and opportunities for women considering a future in this traditionally male-dominated sector. In an exclusive episode co-hosted by Hult Professor of Leadership, Margareta James, Salomey Ampadu, who looks after Hult’s corporate partnerships in Europe, and current Bachelor of Business Administration student, Mia Andrade, the podcast profiled two highly accomplished special guests. 

The first, Hult alum Lisa Faymonville, grew up in her family’s trailer manufacturing business. For Lisa, the path into this industry was an expected natural step. The other featured guest, Kathy Liu, is a Global Senior Technology Business Development Manager at Amazon Web Services. For Kathy, the route into STEM was an unexpected jump from her academic background in political science. Both women have experienced firsthand the double standards and perceived barriers to women’s success in their industries. And both share their valuable insight into the mindset needed to thrive.

Watch the full podcast video below and read on for some important takeaways from this inspiring conversation.


Talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not

Margarita and Salomey kicked off the discussion by shedding light on the hurdles women encounter when entering male-dominated STEM fields. One common challenge for women is the confidence gap, where women may doubt their abilities compared to their male counterparts, and feel the need to continuously prove themselves to combat the assumption that they do not belong in these spaces. 

Indeed, it’s not uncommon for women to grow up believing that these fields are simply inaccessible. Salomey emphasizes the importance of raising awareness and providing opportunities for women to explore STEM careers. “It’s not that women cannot succeed in STEM,” she says. “But unfortunately they feel that they cannot be in that world. We need to be bringing the opportunity to them.” 


“We grow up and we think it’s just not our field. Let’s drop that belief system.”

Lisa Faymonville

“Fear should never be the factor that holds you back”

Hult grad Lisa Faymonville got involved in her family’s pioneering trailer company from a young age, with no preconceived notion that the world of heavy-load transport wasn’t a place for women. “My sister, my cousin, and I all grew up in the family business. The next generation of the business is all girls,” she explains. “We learned how to weld, we shoveled snow, we counted screws. We learned how to be in a male-dominated industry before that was even a concept because our parents never differentiated.”

As Lisa grew up and became more heavily involved in the company, she decided to study business and build her credentials. “I discovered I knew absolutely nothing,” she says. I had no technical background. I was a bit intimidated and I was very aware that I was the daughter of the boss and I didn’t want to impose myself. So I studied business at Hult and continued to attend trailer meetings. I listened and took notes.” 

Lisa didn’t let fear or that sense of intimidation hold her back long—instead, it inspired her curiosity. And the more she learned, the more confident she felt to speak up in the “mainly male” Faymonville meetings. She also became more comfortable with what she didn’t know. “What propels me forward has always been curiosity,” she explains. “I’m OK not to know something…yet. ‘Yet’ is a very important word. It’s about having a growth mindset. It’s about not limiting your capabilities.”


“What propels me forward has always been curiosity.”

Lisa Faymonville

Looking beyond barriers 

When asked for her take on barriers to women in STEM, Lisa related a story about learning to drive:

“When I started to learn to drive, my Dad would sit next to me and teach me. He would say, ‘Hey Lisa, why is it that sometimes, when people get into car accidents, they’ve driven straight into a tree they happened to find in a field of nothing? How is that possible? It’s because they focused on the tree. If you focus on the tree, you’ll hit the tree.’ The point is, if you focus on barriers, all you’ll see are barriers. If you stop focusing on barriers, you’ll see options, possibilities, and opportunities.”


“If you stop focusing on barriers, you’ll see options, possibilities, and opportunities.”

Lisa Faymonville

Lisa admitted that, at times, it was a challenge to find her voice in a heavily male business environment. She explains that communication between men and women isn’t always easy to navigate, and, on a practical level, it can help to have thick skin. “I think, as a woman, we are simply used to communicating differently,” she says. “Communication in a male-dominated world can be a bit shorter, more direct. Don’t take it personally. In my experience, you need to be able to grow a kind of thick skin. And don’t give up after the first failure—have the perseverance to continue.”


An accidental path into STEM

Although she now works in a senior role at Amazon Web Services, when Kathy Liu went to university, she hadn’t considered a future in tech. “I got into STEM very accidentally,” she says. “Sometimes we think there is one path towards a STEM career, but actually there is no one, set, preordained path. Everyone I’ve spoken to who has pivoted to STEM from a non-traditional background has had this meandering, accidental path like me.”


“There is no one, set, preordained path to a STEM career.”

Kathy Liu

As an undergraduate, Kathy studied political science and went on to do her master’s in public policy. “I was specializing in finance and economic policy and I was so bored of Excel sheets,” she explains. “I was looking at electives in my last semester to just have a bit of a change. I saw these courses on cyber security, and for me, it was a blank slate.”

It would be this unconventional course choice that changed Kathy’s career trajectory. “I was supposed to graduate in May and find a job in the New York finance sector. That was the dream,” she explains. “But this completely threw it out the window.” Despite not having a traditional STEM background, she leveraged her curiosity and transferable skills to break into the field. “I was very lucky,” she says. “I had a professor who really believed in the different perspective that I could bring to the field and I think that emboldened me to approach recruiters.”

Know your value

Kathy emphasizes the need for women to recognize their own worth in the face of doubt or impostor syndrome. She recalls the mindset she had when applying for her first jobs in cybersecurity, saying, “I remember writing this very non-traditional cover letter where I just listed, bullet point by bullet point, what my transferable skills were. I think I stood out from other applicants because I knew my worth and I differentiated myself.”

Since pivoting into STEM, Kathy has made it part of her mission to help others from non-traditional backgrounds, especially women, to understand the skills and value they can bring to the table. In 2018, she founded the Inclusive Cyber initiative to empower underrepresented talent and help them carve out careers in STEM. “The future of work is becoming more interdisciplinary than ever,” Kathy explains. “The jobs of the future are changing. I think it’s so important to look beyond the stereotypes and the traditional boundaries of what a STEM field is associated with because that is falling down like a house of cards. We’re reinventing what STEM means and I think this is a massive opportunity.”


“It’s so important to look beyond the stereotypes. We’re reinventing what STEM means and I think this is a massive opportunity.”

Kathy Liu

Think: “Nothing is out of my league.”

Mia Andrade, Voices of Hult host and current Bachelor of Business Administration student, is an entrepreneur. She found Lisa and Kathy’s stories and insight incredibly relatable and shared her own inspiring mantra to fight impostor syndrome. “I have a friend, and for the past week, she’s been saying, ‘Nothing is out of my league,’” Mia explains. “I really needed to hear that quote, because we were limiting ourselves in different areas of our life.”

Developing a mindset of ‘nothing is out of my league,’ can be a game-changer for women considering a STEM career. “We’re talking about entering a male-dominated industry, and a lot of women are limiting themselves, consciously or subconsciously,” Mia says. “They think that what they want is out of their league. It would be amazing if we could instill in women that passion is there for a reason. It’s not out of your league. Just go for it. Believe. Keep persisting. 


“The passion is there for a reason. It’s not out of your league. Just go for it.”
Mia Andrade

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