Paving the Way for Women in Technology: The Power of Taking Risks

Marykay Wells has never shied away from a challenge.

“Throughout my life, I’ve always learned by taking risks,” Marykay says.

That attitude has guided Marykay through an impressive career in technology spanning more than 25 years.

Today, she’s the Chief Information Officer at Pearson, where she works to improve outcomes for learners through technology.

“The technology challenge in education is high reward,” Marykay says. “You can make a big difference in people’s lives.”

In this role, Marykay hopes to innovate learning – and help a new generation of women embrace the value of risk-taking.

Early Interest

Technology first piqued Marykay’s interest in high school.

“It was an exciting field with a lot of opportunities to learn new things,” Marykay says.

“I knew it was a good fit for me,” she says.

After graduation, Marykay enrolled in a computer systems program at Clarkson University, where she was among a big group of female students.

“I feel lucky to have pursued a career in technology during a period when the educational playing field was level,” Marykay says.

“My female peers were just as interested in math and science as men,” she says.

 

STEM Trends Today

Marykay has noticed a shift in attitudes since she was a student.

“Women are less likely to pursue a degree in a technology related field now than when I graduated from school 30 years ago,” she says.

She attributes the trend to an unconscious gender bias that begins at an early age and continues through secondary school.

“Young girls are sent to dance camp while boys are sent to computer camp,” she says.

“Even at the high school level, there isn’t much encouragement for women to pursue careers in technology,” she says.

Change Starts at Home

Marykay has tried to buck these trends with her daughters, encouraging them to pursue careers in technology.

“I always brought them to the office for ‘Take Your Daughter to Work Day’,” Marykay says.

“I wanted them to see that working in technology isn’t intimidating—that it’s actually quite a normal thing to do these days.”

Marykay also taught her daughters the value of independence.

“I couldn’t be a parent who checked the homework in detail every night,” Marykay says.

“So, something very positive happened: they learned to fail.”

The lessons all stuck.

“One of my daughters is now an engineer and the other is working on a double degree in sports management and data analytics,” Marykay says.

Future Leaders

Marykay’s dedication to the industry and passion for supporting women in STEM hasn’t gone unnoticed.

This year, she’s a finalist at the prestigious Women in IT Awards—an annual event to recognize the outstanding achievements by women in the tech world.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as a leader,” she says.

And she hopes to see more women on a path to leadership opportunities in technology in the future.

“My goal is to mentor more women and help them come up through the IT field,” Marykay says.

“When you take on a new position or make a big change in your career, it’s always a big risk, but those tough decisions push us forward—in life and at work.”


“When you take on a new position or make a big change in your career, it’s always a big risk, but those tough decisions push us forward – in life and at work.”