Women Leaders in STEM Spotlight: Rebekah Gandy
A leader in the lab design industry shares her most valuable pieces advise for fellow women leaders in the scientific community
In recognition of International Women’s Day today, March 8, we are sharing the careers and experiences of several women leaders in science. These accomplished women will also give presentations and host Q&A sessions during Lab Manager’s Women Leaders in Science Digital Summit, taking place March 14-15. This free digital event will provide career development guidance to women working in scientific organizations and offer advice on how to address challenges, reach goals, and command a room.
As Gensler’s South Central sciences practice area leader, Rebekah Gandy, AIA, CDT, LEED AP, utilizes her more than 15 years of experience to create innovative spaces in the science and technology fields. Having touched more than 4.2 million square feet of laboratory real estate in her work, Gandy is an expert in navigating the intricacies involved with designing labs for both institutional and private organizations, including high-tech environments, CGMP cleanrooms, and large biopharmaceutical headquarters.
As a leader in the industry, Gandy was recognized as a 2021 Bisnow Houston Power Women Rising Star and is often called upon to speak at life science conferences, webinars, and events. In her free time, Gandy dedicates herself to furthering Gensler’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts. She also served as an ACE mentor and has chaired various positions for AIA Houston.
Gandy will present on the topic of “Utilizing DEI Strategies to Create a More Equitable Lab” at the Women Leaders in Science Summit.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a scientific career?
A: As a student at a magnet high school, I was able to form a foundation in science and technology at an early age, which I believe helped me understand how I could contribute to the industry’s community. I started my undergraduate career in electrical engineering and thought I would design the robots of the future. After one semester, I decided to take an architecture design studio, had an “aha” moment, and switched majors immediately.
Q: What's the biggest lesson you have learned during your professional journey so far?
A: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to treat people how they want to be treated, not how you would like to be treated.
Q: What's one key point of advice you have for fellow women in STEM?
A: Work hard, find an advocate, and then advocate for others. Identify your long-term goals and understand how you can be resilient in achieving them. It’s also critical to find a group of like-minded women outside of your company/firm that can support you and give you advice. They can provide you with an unbiased perspective and the opportunity to compare workplace cultures.
Q: Can you explain what you will be presenting on during the Women Leaders Summit?
A: The presentation will focus on my experience with national DEI initiatives and lessons learned and how they can be applied to the laboratory workplace.
Q: What challenges do you still see for women in STEM? How can women best advocate for themselves? How can peer allies best support them?
A: Positive exposure and representation will help move mountains. STEM is still a male dominated industry, so as women, we need to support the current generation and make way for the next. When a five-year-old girl watches a movie/cartoon with a female scientist or has a woman scientist visit during career day, it makes it much easier for her to envision a future in STEM. In my late 20s, I would volunteer for career day at a friend’s lower education class. During my presentation, a kindergartener yelled out, “Hey, you can’t be an architect. You’re a girl.” I was shocked but maintained composure. Fortunately, I have had many female role models in technical positions growing up, but I am often reminded that not everyone has the same access.
Q: Do you feel you have equal opportunities to your male counterparts?
A: I acknowledge how lucky I am to work at Gensler—I found my home at a firm that leads the statics of women in leadership positions. Part of Gensler’s success in gender equity is due to its leadership structure, which outlines that all main leadership positions are co-led. When you have a diversity of leadership and ideas, real innovation happens. Though I am fortunate that this is the model at my company, this is not the case within our industry, and opportunities are generally unequal between the sexes.
Q: Are there any valuable resources you recommend for women just entering the workforce in a STEM-related field?
A: Find your local professional women’s group and join it. Join it even if you don’t have time or can only attend a couple of socials. Groups that may be relevant are Women in Architecture, SWE-Society of Women Engineers, Girls Who Code, Women in BioScience, and the Association for Women in Science, to name a few.
To learn more about Rebekah Gandy or the Women Leaders in Science Summit, visit: summit.labmanager.com/womenleaders