Alumnae discuss imposter syndrome, being female in a male-dominated industry

By Madison Morris '23 March 04, 2022

Group of women in tech standing in front of staircase in student center

Three alumnae called upon the university community to engage in a discussion around women in technology and the struggles embedded within the industry.

Dhara Bhuptani ’18, assistant vice president of operational risk at Morgan Stanley; Jessica Flower ’15, security policy and awareness program manager at Yale; and Sheila McCarthy ’85, senior director of solution management and enterprise information management at SAP, came together to empower women in the Bobcat community with STEM interests.

“The biggest thing for me has been imposter syndrome, walking into a room and wondering ‘Do I really belong here?’ I’m young and a female, something doesn’t feel right,” said Bhuptani. “It took about a year to really get that confidence and build it up.”

Similar to Bhuptani, Flower described culture shock that occurred when she started in the field, causing her to feel unsure in her role.

As time went on, she learned to listen, ask questions and become confident in her abilities, she explained.

“My main strategy has just always been to speak my mind and speak up. It doesn’t matter who’s in the room, I try not to back down with my ideas,” said Flower. “There is this concept of ‘managing up,’ which sometimes comes from confidence, and my ability to do that with a lack of fear has allowed me to see multiple promotions.”

McCarthy, having significant experience in the industry, introduced the idea of a growth mindset, which creates a hunger for learning and diminishes fear of failing.

“Try to help each other as you’re growing, I was the youngest in the room at some point and I felt the same exact way and you just build those years of experience and get more confidence,” said McCarthy. “I always try to look out to see if there is another woman in the room and reach out to her and bring them along in this journey too."

All speakers, echoing this support, emphasized that women should not be afraid to sit at the table in a room full of men, as their place there was earned.

Bhuptani and Flower attributed their inspiration to Kiku Jones, professor of computer information systems in the Quinnipiac School of Business.

Bhuptani, having met Jones her first year at Quinnipiac, and Flower having taken her capstone class, both described Jones as a supportive figure along their journey of self-exploration.

“Dr. Jones was a huge inspiration in helping me figure out what I wanted to do when I left school,” said Flower. “Her capstone class really helped guide me to being a project manager and I loved it."

While tackling the issue of where we go from here, McCarthy explained that STEM programs should be introduced during junior high, building up confidence and exposing women to the field at an early age. Additionally, finding a mentor, putting your ideas out there and owning having earned your place in a room is huge, she said.

“My biggest piece of advice is to keep your head up and ears open. Use the resources that are available to you,” said Flower. “Learn from the people who are there and have more experience than you, but don’t let them intimidate you. If you can find that right balance, you can make the most of any internship or job you land yourself in.”

The panel discussion on Wednesday was moderated by Cortney Hannula ’22, MS ’23, and hosted by the People’s United Center for Women and Business.

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