NATICK, Mass. -- The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Soldier Center's Cultivating Women's Leadership group hosted Coryne Forest, the deputy director of Organization Development at the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Ground Vehicle Systems on June 21.

Forest's talk centered on women working in science, technology, engineering and math, know as STEM.

Forest worked for 18 years as a project engineer. She eventually became a middle manager and then began her current position as the deputy director of Organization Development, focusing on fostering leadership.

The STEM career fields are still male-dominated. Forest pointed out the startling reality that half of the women working in STEM careers will leave mid-career due to a hostile work environment.

The type of hostility faced by women is usually not overt but rather a subtle undercurrent of condescension. Women in STEM are sometimes not given the recognition they deserve for their ideas or their ideas are sometimes not taken seriously. Thus, their contributions are often overlooked.

As part of this climate of condescension, women in STEM are sometimes expected to take on certain types of duties, including cleaning conference room tables, cleaning out the refrigerators, taking notes at meetings and planning office parties.

Forest said that businesses can help better retain women working in STEM by recognizing their contributions and by addressing the culture of condescension. Businesses can also improve retention by providing flexible work agreements, by allowing women to follow their career passions, and by giving women challenging but fair assignments.

Too often women face not only the glass ceiling but the glass cliff, where women in leadership roles are more likely than men to receive opportunities for leadership roles during times of crisis when the likelihood of failure is highest.

Forest's presentation was part of an ongoing effort by the center's Cultivating Women's Leadership group to explore leadership topics and provide employees opportunities to brainstorm, network and grow personally and professionally.

The group is led by Andrea St. George, an Organization Development specialist and Leadership Development program manager at the Soldier Center . The group also includes Sandra Hickey, deputy chief of staff for Intelligence and Security - G2, and Jen Rego, an research chemist.

St. George said the group is dedicated to building a "supportive community of professional women" who are devoted to "career development and professional/personal empowerment."

"We were so happy to partner with Coryne not just to support a collaboration between the RDECs but also because we were able to hear her talk about something she loves, is passionate about, and that she wants to inform the workforce about -- women in STEM," said St. George. "We were grateful for the opportunity to have her speak to our Cultivating Women's Leadership about this topic and share her very personal experiences of having a career in STEM, some of the unique challenges women experience during their careers and what support looks like for women during their careers."

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The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to provide innovative research, development and engineering to produce capabilities that provide decisive overmatch to the Army against the complexities of the current and future operating environments in support of the joint warfighter and the nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.