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Aiding women to lead:

Stony Brook University plans program focused on STEM fields: Local employers hope the program, which will gather 30 women in executive and senior academic posts, will boost their leadership and mentoring skills

By Daysi Calavia-Robertson
As seen in Newsday LI Business Section
May 4, 2018

  Alka Iqbal, an executive at NPD Group in Port WashingtonAlka Iqbal, an executive at NPD Group in Port Washington, is participating in Stony Brook's leadership program for women. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Stony Brook University’s new, intensive Women in STEM Leadership Program, which runs from May 8 to May 11, seeks to bolster the ranks of women in management positions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.

The program will host 30 women in executive and senior academic posts. Most will be sponsored by their employers, who will pay the $4,700 participation fee.

Local employers hope the program will boost the attendees’ leadership and mentoring skills.

“It’s important for me, as an employer, to invest in the development of my team,” said Evelyn Marchany Garcia, vice president and head of Long Island operations, in Melville, for Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company Novartis.

“We’re very interested in making sure our women leaders have access to the tools they need to break that glass ceiling in the STEM fields.”

Marchany Garcia said in an interview she is sponsoring Esra Duman, a chemist and director-level manager at her company, so that she can continue to grow.

“She’s a strong, intelligent leader; an investment in her is an investment in our business as well,” she said.

Stony Brook’s Women in STEM Leadership Program will feature interactive workshops, seminars and discussions led by industry leaders, and feature guest speakers such as Jennifer P. Howland, executive of the pathways program for experienced, diverse technical talent at IBM.

“The objective is to embolden participants within their careers, and to cultivate more talent and more sustainable female leadership in the fields of STEM,” said Patricia Malone, executive director of Stony Brook University’s Center for Corporate Education.

“Our focus is on closing that talent gender gap and giving women a seat at the table.”

Malone, who said she worked on developing the program for the past two years, said most of the participants she spoke with expressed interest in learning a more strategic communication style. Most also said they’d like to become mentors to other women in STEM, motivating them to pursue leadership roles.

Program topics will include negotiating, conflict management, exerting influence, styles of leadership, and dealing with gender bias, among others. Participants must have a minimum of five to seven years of experience in a career in STEM.

Alka Iqbal, an executive director at The NPD Group, develops predictive analytics’ applications and performs a range of tasks including data analysis and numerical calculations at the Port Washington-based market research firm. Participating in the program was appealing, she said, for many reasons.

“When I was younger, my parents encouraged me to pursue the arts. I was in dance, gymnastics, you know, all the gender-stereotype activities for girls, and though that was great and allowed me to be creative, I would have liked encouragement to pursue my talents in these other fields,” said Iqbal, who has more than 15 years of professional experience.

“Now that I’m a mother myself, to two little girls, a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old, I see a lot of myself in them and think, ‘Well, what can I do to encourage them to explore careers and opportunities in STEM earlier on?’

Iqbal said she hopes her participation in the program will help her answer some of these questions.

The program will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn on the Stony Brook University campus.

Women in STEM LeadershipFor parity. For unity. For community.