Inspiring the Next Generation of Women Leaders to Make a Difference in STEM

By Trudy T. Burke, Global Lead Gliadel Demand Chain & Baltimore Site Head





April 29, 2024

Headshot of Trudy T. Burke

The path to a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) career can be fraught with roadblocks, particularly for young women who have passion and talent for the field. From my own experience, I also know it can be difficult to find the right role models and supporters.

As I reflect on my personal career journey, and barriers to entering a career in STEM, I recall my high school guidance counselor trying to dissuade me from a career in engineering, even though I had taken advanced science and math courses. The counselor admitted that he didn’t think engineering was the right choice for my career after he “forgot” to submit my application to my top college. Luckily, I caught this error on his part and was accepted to the college, but it reminds me of the critical need for supportive mentors and role models for young women interested in STEM.

Personally, one of the most important and motivating roles I have at Eisai as a leader is championing and mentoring young women both internally and externally through programs and partnerships. For example, I’ve had the honor of participating for years – even before my time at Eisai – in “Women Making a Difference for Maryland,” a program championed by the Regional Manufacturing Institute of Maryland in close partnership with the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a non-profit organization focused on growing and strengthening Maryland manufacturers.

The Impact of “Women Making a Difference for Maryland”

Recently, the annual state event welcomed over 500 local industry stakeholders and more than 150 female high school students to its celebration in Baltimore to recognize women in manufacturing for their impact on Maryland’s economy. I was proud to join nine members from our site in hosting six students from an all-girls polytechnic institute in Baltimore to our table.

Our team shared their career journeys in manufacturing and provided advice on navigating professional life as a woman in the pharmaceutical industry. By sharing our experiences in our respective leadership roles, we were able to put into focus for these young women – hopefully our future workforce – the benefits of manufacturing careers in STEM.

More importantly, we listened and learned from these students, all of whom were interested in computer science and manufacturing. They had questions about colleges and their careers, and wanted to know what skills were most important. It was energizing to hear about their interest in STEM and answer their questions about our career paths, academic backgrounds and give them an opportunity to see what could be in their future. We left the event very motivated and determined to find ways that we could continue to support STEM talent and future female leaders to positively impact our local communities and youth.

A photo of Trudy T. Burke with the other attendees at the Women Making a Difference for Maryland event

“Companies need to understand the talent and interest is there and we need to support their growth and development.”

The Future Manufacturing Leaders

I came away from this year’s “Women Making a Difference for Maryland” event with a few key takeaways on needed steps to foster the next generation of women leaders in STEM. One is that companies need to understand the talent and interest is there and we need to support their growth and development. We also need to rethink how we interact with these young women and the support we can provide to help women throughout their STEM journey. Mentors and role models are important and can be provided through formal internships and mentoring programs or by informally pairing them with someone they can talk to and learn from – both can provide a steady foundation on which to build their careers. I’m excited for the next generation of women leaders in manufacturing and honored to support the women who are going to contribute to the future of the field.