The 100 CEO Leaders in STEM Blog Series features a new CEO Monday-Friday and the exemplary work his or her company is doing to support 21st Century STEM learning and workforce development. Learn more and download the whole copy at STEMconnector.org/100CEOs. Follow the conversation on Twitter using #100STEMCEOs. Today's CEO Leader is Dawne S. Hickton of RTI International Metals, Inc.
Dawne S. Hickton is Vice Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer of RTI International Metals, Inc., one of the world’s largest producers of advanced titanium products used in technologically sophisticated applications in the commercial aerospace, defense, propulsion, medical device, energy, industrial and chemical markets. Ms. Hickton has served as Vice Chair, President and CEO and a member of RTI’s board since 2007.
Ms. Hickton has over 25 years of diversified metals experience, including 10+ years in the titanium industry spanning several business cycles.
She is a director of several industry associations, as well as public, private and educational institutions.
How do you believe STEM education can improve a nation's competitiveness?
Technology is evolving faster than ever before. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, U.S.-based companies must continually advance the next great innovation. Doing so requires a workforce with top-notch technical skills and the ability to think critically and creatively. These are the skills that a world class STEM education provides.
Unfortunately, when it comes to STEM preparation, there are gaps and inadequacies in our education system. If schools and businesses commit to finding ways to partner in improving STEM education, we will prepare today’s students to be tomorrow’s innovators. A new generation of innovators will be needed to ensure that the U.S. remains competitive in the global marketplace.
What is your advice to those involved in promoting STEM education?
First, I encourage those working to promote STEM education to develop meaningful, long-standing partnerships with businesses in order to understand what types of STEM skill sets are needed in the workplace. For example, RTI has an interest in material science (metallurgy), accounting/finance, engineering and IT professionals.
Once you have a solid understanding of the practical applications of STEM education, seek creative ways to make STEM fields attractive to students. And don’t neglect the importance of STEM teachers. Push for policies that require rigorous math and science curriculums, fully-qualified educators, and regular training to keep teachers’ knowledge base sharp.
Finally, be relentless in your pursuit. We will not overcome the inadequacies in STEM education overnight. However, I believe that your investment of time, talent and resources in the pursuit of STEM excellence will result in a generation of students prepared to meet the technological needs of the future.
What do we need in the US to continue to be at the top of global innovation?
The U.S. needs to produce more technical school and college STEM majors. Top-notch STEM professionals are critical for American businesses to stay at the forefront of global innovation, but our technical schools, colleges and universities are not graduating enough of these professionals to meet the demand.
We’re filling some of that gap by importing STEM talent from other countries. We must also seek ways to make it attractive for U.S. students, especially women and minorities who are underrepresented in the field, to choose STEM careers.
Additionally, we must develop and support rigorous math and science curriculums in all American elementary and secondary schools so that there is a wide and deep pool of graduating seniors that are genuinely prepared for technical school and college-level STEM studies.
How is your company connecting diversity initiatives with STEM initiatives? Is this a part of your comprehensive strategy?
As a business leader and woman in the STEM field, I am passionate about finding ways to increase the number of women and minorities in the field. As a business leader, I’m also passionate about increasing the number of candidates with strong STEM backgrounds because RTI’s reputation as a leader in “Advancing Titanium” depends upon it. We believe that committing early to student education in the STEM fields will build robust pipelines of future STEM employees. For example, we annually sponsor a high school team to compete in the Aerospace Industries Association’s Team America Rocketry Challenge. RTI managers volunteer at local schools and through other STEM-sponsored organizations, and I have personally taken schoolchildren on plant tours.
Diversity initiatives are a core principle of RTI’s strategic plan, and we use that commitment to support and encourage diversity in STEM fields. When we are identifying and selecting viable STEM candidates for anticipated openings, our goal is to identify at least one minority and one female for every open leadership position. Women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields so this is a challenge – but one that we embrace.
Check out RTI International Metals, Inc.'s Profile: http://stemconnector.org/rti-metals-inc