Women Who Inspire: HEATHER CABOT

By Caroline Cioffi, LiveGirl Fellow, New Canaan HS Senior

Across the world, women are 35% less likely to pursue STEM-related fields than men. Only 24% of girls feel confident in science classes and only 25% in math classes. Of all the American computer science degrees earned in the past year, only 18% went to women, according to The Atlantic. Many experts attribute this disparity to a concept called the ‘visibility gap’.

Heather Cabot launched her book Geek Girl Rising with the goal of combatting this so-called ‘visibility gap’. “The visibility gap really shows the problem,” Heather said. “When it comes to technology, the mainstream media hasn’t been doing a great job of showcasing female pioneers in the industry. There’s this stereotype of a mythical hacker in a hoodie that’s existed for some time and it has really deterred girls from going into STEM fields. That’s why we started Geek Girl Rising.”

Another common misconception that leads girls away from STEM is the idea that technology is not a creative field. “In this world we live in, technology is how you communicate and how you express yourself,” Heather said. “Technology is creative, it’s collaborative, and it’s artistic. And it’s important to recognize that you can be a creator, not just a consumer of technology.”

Heather encourages girls to go out and start learning more about coding and other STEM-related fields. “Be curious and ask questions!” Heather said. “Learn how to look under the hood of these products and see how they work. Take a coding class. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to be your career path but, if you have computer skills, they are going to be incredibly valuable in any field.”

As a woman who has been incredibly successful, Heather emphasizes the importance of giving back to the next generation of female leaders. “I love the idea of paying it forward,” Heather said. “One of my greatest joys in the world is helping other people. I especially love the opportunity to help women in fields like tech and finance that are male-dominated. It’s great to find a group of people who are like-minded and want to help each other.”

One of the ways Heather pays it forward is through the advice she gives to younger girls. One piece of advice Heather shared is the importance of focusing on mastery. “I think there’s a lot to be said for some of the research and writing about perfectionism in girls and confidence; I see it in myself certainly and I see it in my daughter,” Heather said. “Girls need to realize that there’s something more important than the final GPA. They should focus on effort, attitude, preparation, practice, and all of the other things that need to come together in order to master something. And they need to realize they might not get it the first time. And that’s okay.”

As a mother of 13-year old twins (a girl and a boy), Heather has chosen to openly discuss the idea of gender equality with her children. “We have an ongoing conversation about gender equality and inclusion,” Heather said. “We talk about current events with them. They followed the Kavanaugh hearings. We feel like they’re mature enough to handle it. I think they really get it and we have a lot of great conversations about it.”

As she continues to juggle motherhood and her professional career, Heather emphasizes that it’s okay to be a work-in-progress. “A lot of parenting is modeling,” Heather said. “I’ve had to learn to balance both my children and my professional life and a lot of times it’s a juggle. I think balance is a myth. It’s important for people to know that it’s messy but, in the end, it’s super gratifying.”