Monica Chiarini Tremblay remembers the not-so-subtle signals she received as a female undergrad in engineering, a field historically dominated by men.
“I still remember being in classrooms where I really didn’t have anyone to associate with,” she says. “And in the engineering building, they had one women’s bathroom on one floor. It was like, ‘Go find it.’”
Fast forward several decades, and Tremblay not only has advanced in her industry but also has transitioned to a successful career as a college professor in information systems, another field historically dominated by men. She was chair of the department in the College of Business at Florida International University before moving in August to William & Mary, where she is an associate professor of operations and information technology in the Raymond A. Mason School of Business.
Tremblay has been an advocate for women pursuing and taking leadership roles in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Now she is featured in a magazine story about the challenges women face in those traditionally male-dominated areas. The story appears in the November-December edition of BizEd, the magazine of the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, the business school accrediting organization.
Tremblay says it was an honor to be featured in the story, one of several in an entire edition focused on diversity and inclusion. She says the magazine’s editors saw what happened at Florida International, where Joyce Elam, the now-retired dean of the College of Business, made an effort to recruit and advance the careers of women educators in historically male fields.
“I guess we caught their attention,” Tremblay says. “At FIU I was department chair. I was able to recruit females and minorities to the department. In the field we are in, there’s not a tremendous number of women.”
She adds: “I have been fortunate, and now I feel it’s my turn. I have been active in the PhD Project. It’s an organization put together by KPMG to increase the enrollment and hiring of minority PhD students. And wherever I can, I find opportunities to mentor. It’s not necessarily just women. But it does happen that women come to me because I am like them.”
Something that simple—students seeing role models who look like them and feeling welcome—has a lot to do with success, Tremblay says.
“It’s what students see and feel in the classroom,” she says. “How do we encourage diversity if all the professors look the same?”
Now she has taken her work and her push for diversity and inclusion to William & Mary.
“I love Williamsburg and the campus,” she says. “Also, the colleagues here are a really good group. [Professor] Rajiv Kohli is someone who has served as a mentor for a long time. The opportunity to come work with him was really exciting. And I love that, while research is very important and rigorous at William & Mary, we care about teaching. That really matters to me.”
Industry and higher education have made progress in welcoming and advancing women and minorities, Tremblay says. But work remains to be done.
“We need to encourage women and people of color to approach STEM fields and give them support,” she says. “My daughter is at Columbia University studying computer science. She has had tremendous support. People are aware that this needs to happen. Do we have work to do? Probably a whole lot. But I’m encouraged.”