As moderator of the Women Breaking Barriers panel at the Women’s Conference of Florida 2016, sponsored by TECO Energy, Karen Mincey had the opportunity to join a dialogue with other female leaders from a variety of fields, from politics to entertainment; among them was Linda Figg, who helped design the world-famous Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
But one thing that stood out about the experience for Mincey – TECO Energy’s vice president of Information Technology & Telecommunications and chief technology officer – was the opportunity to help the next generation of young women build bridges to successful futures.
As part of her active role at the conference, Mincey served as a judge for the Young Women in Tech Challenge, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competition. It featured two teams of five female high school students each who had to come up with innovative solutions to real-world problems. And the best solutions they discovered, Mincey said, might be the ones they helped present for their own professional aspirations.
“The teams were very impressive, great critical thinkers with a wealth of skills that will serve them well as they progress through their education and careers,” she said. “At a company like TECO, we need highly skilled engineers and technical experts of all kinds to continue to serve the community. As we think about the next generation, that need for talent will be filled by those who excel in STEM areas.”
Beyond that, Mincey praised the challenge organizers and sponsors for the critical roles they’re working to fill to encourage more young women to pursue STEM studies.
“When I look back on my own life, I see that in high school, even though I loved math and science, no one talked to me about pursuing a career in engineering,” she said. “I was fortunate to be able to pursue a technical career path and to develop in my career, but I realize it could’ve been a more direct route with the right encouragement early if I had been more exposed to the world of technical careers. That’s one of the things I want to see for young women – that they all know that they can do anything they choose to do.”
Laura Crouch, director of Community Relations with Tampa Electric and a driving force behind TECO’s sponsorship of the Women’s Conference of Florida 2016, agreed.
“TECO is proud to be a champion of women at all levels at this company, from our power stations to our boardroom, and the conference was another incredible way to demonstrate that,” she said. “Maybe most importantly of all, we want to inspire the young women to excel in STEM fields and achieve their full potential. They saw that in all of the participants who donated their time to be role models for the next generation of female leaders – the ones TECO and the community are counting on them to be.”