Ask MIT Leaders for Global Operations (LGO) alumna Mary Anito how she would describe an engineer and it would no doubt capture your attention.
“An engineer is someone who is always up for creative problem solving. They get to meet people from all over the world and share knowledge back and forth,” she says, adding, “It’s a fun, challenging and lucrative career.” An honest definition from someone with experience in the field and someone who loves what she does.
If the feeling is contagious, that’s exactly what Anito wants. The goal of the 27-year-old is to engage young women in math, science and technology so that more women will choose to enter those fields. Her first experience trying to get this message out was during her time at Cisco from 2007 to 2010. She became involved in the Massachusetts-wide program known as the Digits Campaign. The goal was to place a science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) professional in every sixth-grade classroom to serve as inspiration and as role models. Through Cisco, she also became involved in the Girls in Technology Day at the Museum of Science where she was a speaker.
While at LGO, Mary earned her MBA at the MIT Sloan School of Management and her SM in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. During her time at LGO, she learned of the MIT Women’s Initiative, a program that began through collaborative efforts between Microsoft and MIT’s National Honor Society for Computer Science and Electrical Engineering, Eta Kappa Nu (HKN). Microsoft challenged HKN to address the lack of women in engineering studies.
Anito was selected to partake in the program and spent a week in both Anchorage, Alaska, and Chicago, Ill., where she shared her passion for engineering by engaging the students in classroom projects, presentations and real-life problem-solving from her experiences working in the field. Anito feels compelled to reach out to girls at this age because she says that it is between the sixth and eighth grades when children, especially young women, begin to disengage from science and math. She says that it is important to spark their interest and get them thinking about those disciplines in new, exciting ways.
Anito says that she has been involved with educating young women for years — from tutoring in high school to getting involved in her current outreach programs. Her future short-term goals are to assume the role of Chief Sustainability Officer for a company — monitoring the production of goods with minimal impact to the environment — and, later, CEO of a company.
Though she has traveled from Switzerland to Uganda in addition to most of the United States, her future may lie, she says, in the state she grew up in — New York. She talks of someday wanting to run for governor with a platform of bridging the gap between technology and policy, a step she says that is needed to help define a strategy for the United States to ensure a successful future. In that position, one of her goals would be to put more resources behind elementary schools through grassroots, community-based organizations that encourage girls and young women to become more involved in science, technology and engineering — fields that are desperately needed in order for this country to continue competing and thriving, Anito says.