Sharon Hays - CSC
Vice President, Office of Science and Engineering
Dr. Sharon L. Hays, Vice President, Office of Science and Engineering at CSC, leads a team focused on the creation of business opportunities in the emerging climate change, energy and sustainability market. Before joining CSC, Dr. Hays served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy as a deputy to the President’s Science Advisor. Earlier in her career, she worked on Capitol Hill, serving in several senior staff positions in the House of Representatives. Dr. Hays received her Ph.D. in Biochemistry from Stanford University and holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley.
Why do you believe STEM workforce and education are important to the nation?
Science and technology will continue to be drivers of economic growth. To remain competitive in an age of increasing globalization, the nation will depend upon scientists, engineers, mathematicians and technologists who can generate the innovative discoveries that will drive the economy of the future. Science and engineering will also be the key to solving many of our planet’s most pressing problems, whether it is discovering cures for deadly diseases, developing economically practical clean energy solutions, or finding ways to better protect our troops from harm on the battlefield.
What can we do to assure more women leaders in STEM?
It might sound counter-intuitive, but one of the ways we can bring more women into the STEM pipeline is to demonstrate to them that pursuing an education in a STEM field will give them the skills to succeed in any professional endeavor – including careers outside of science and technology. Too many young women shy away from studying in a STEM field because they think it locks them into a technical career. Nothing could be further from the truth – a STEM background is excellent preparation for leadership in careers from across the spectrum. When I decided to pursue a non-academic career after getting my Ph.D., some of the professors I had studied with made it clear they thought I had “wasted” my graduate training. I disagree; while I’m not a practicing research scientist, I use my STEM training every time I apply the problem solving skills that were honed during my rigorous scientific training. When we imply that training in a STEM field leads only to certain jobs, we’re sending the wrong message, and deterring many of today’s students – some of whom might otherwise become the field’s future leaders – from embarking on STEM-related studies.
Of what one initiative are you most proud?
When I was in graduate school I initiated and led an effort to understand and document the sense of disillusionment that many Ph.D. students in the life sciences were feeling at the time. Their disenchantment stemmed from the fact that their career expectations did not align with the realities of the academic job market, which had tightened considerably since they had embarked on their graduate training. The report that I wrote on my findings gave voice to the students’ concerns and got the attention of policymakers in Washington, DC.
What about STEM gives you passion?
My STEM training gave me the ability to approach seemingly intractable problems as puzzles that can be solved with the right application of ingenuity and perseverance. Even though I am no longer a practicing scientist, I find myself using my STEM training to “think like a scientist” in many situations. I am passionate in my belief that pursuing an education in a STEM subject can lead to professional fulfillment in diverse – and perhaps unexpected – fields.