Panelists discuss career paths, workplace discrimination in STEM fields

To begin the weeklong virtual celebration of women entrepreneurs, three women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields talked about their careers and their experiences with gender discrimination in the workplace. 

The STEM panel discussion, presented by Brad D. Smith Business Incubator, is the first of five presentations from Nov. 9-13 that are provided to Marshall students and faculty.  

“Starting a new business is like having a baby,” Laura Riegel, co-owner and manager of Blue Ink Technology and RDI Construction, said. “You have no idea what you are getting into. You can talk to people who know and try to be prepared, but during the process it still feels like a mother support group.” 

All three female panelists went to universities outside of W.Va., but now their businesses are in Huntington.  

Having graduated from the University of Vermont in 1985 and Washington State in 1991, Andrea Bourdelais moved to Huntington in 2017 to help run her family business, Level 1 Fasteners, and became the CEO of the submarine and aircraft manufacturing company.  

In response to building her job experiences, Bourdelais said to follow the opportunity, like she did, because “even if it might not be what you end up doing, at least it will get you closer where you want to be.” 

Phoebe Patton Randolph currently serves on the board of Huntington Area Development Council and is a firm principal with husband, Nathan Randolph, at Edward Tucker Architects. Phoebe began working for the firm during summer and holiday breaks when she was at University of Tennessee and returned to Huntington three years after she received her Bachelor of Architecture.  

Phoebe said she has not really experienced gender discrimination in her workplace. 

She said she thinks this is because of her ability to admit if she does not know something and recommends other women entrepreneurs to “know your stuff.” 

“Don’t try to make things up. If you don’t know it; say you don’t know it. If I don’t know, I am going to get the answer,” Phoebe said.  

Bourdelais said she experiences gender discrimination, but she knows how to respond.  

“There are a lot of people who will build you up, but there are people who will undermine you,” Bourdelais said. “If you know what you are doing, and you still get negative responses from men and women – stand up for yourself.” 

To register for more panel discussions during women entrepreneurship week, visit https://www.muicenter.com/we-2020. 

Xena Bunton can be contacted at [email protected]