Women in Business Q&A: Jackie Lomax, Founder and Executive Director, Girls 4 Science

Women in Business Q&A: Jackie Lomax, Founder and Executive Director, Girls 4 Science

Jackie Lomax is the Founder and Executive Director of Girls 4 Science. Girls 4 Science is Chicago's only all girls' science initiative for girls 10-18 years old. Currently the program operates a quarterly six week Saturday program at Science Academy at Olive Harvey, Malcolm X Community Colleges as well as University of St. Francis. Since its inception in 2009 more than 500 girls have participated in G4S free STEM programs.

Jackie graduated from the University of St. Francis in Joliet, IL in 1998 with a major in Communications. She interned with Chicagoland Television News as an Assignment Desk Editor before transiting to The Nielsen Company in 1998, where she worked as an Administrative Assistant until 2009.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?

My success is well grounded in my faith as well as my life experiences. I am a single mother of two daughters, therefore, I work hard at overcompensating for my family. I am equally guilty of this behavior in my professional life. I am an advocate for rewarding people and I think our dedicated team of supporters is an example of the success of Girls 4 Science.

How has your employment experience aided your tenure at Girls 4 Science?

My employment experience aided my tenure at Girls 4 Science because it introduced me to a number CEO's who followed their dreams and can mentor G4S students. I have served some of the most successful people in marketing and they trained me to create a grass roots movement for my passion, Girls 4 Science. My past employment trained me to use minimum resources and maximize them to create a solution for other people.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Girls 4 Science?

Girls 4 Science currently has a 100% college enrollment rate for all high school graduates in our program. Additionally, a partnership with Ingredion Incorporated has offered students the opportunity to travel to Space Camp at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Last, but not least, we have established the support of Chicago's business leaders who serve as volunteer mentors to the girls in the organization and offer their expertise to facilitate our quarterly program.

One challenge is always money. It is difficult to raise enough money to support the unique experiences provided by our organization. Because our value is in people, the community has helped deliver hundreds of volunteer hours from board membership all the way to facilitating themed lab assignments. We could not do what we do without the continued support from Chicago's education and business community.

What advice can you offer to women who want a career in the industry?

First pick a field that you enjoy the most, and then learn as much as you can about your chosen field from all angles. Identify an area of improvement within your personal development and seek out a successful mentor to help improve your weakness. Associate yourself with organizations that can help expose your talent to others by volunteering and to make connections that will broaden your professional life.

What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?

The most important lesson that I have learned in my career is to delegate and ask for help when needed. The outcome is always better when there is teamwork at play during each step.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?

My relationship with my family is very important and it is the reason Girls 4 Science exists. The work/life balance is easier to manage because my oldest daughter is included in the over 500 young women our organization supports. I often get to work right alongside her during Girls 4 Science programs! However, I have had to learn how to enjoy things outside of the organization, such as accompanying my five year old daughter to the circus. Another element which has assisted in my work/life balance is having a supportive family. My family is extended to include my neighbor who step in when I need assistance - like preparing dinner for my family when I have evening appointments.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

There's no denying that the role of women in society has changed enormously in recent decades. Women are not only enjoying satisfying careers but are outperforming men in professional roles. Despite tremendous advances, women still face a variety of professional challenges. The number one issue in my opinion is discrimination of competitive wages.

On average, full-time working women earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This significant gap is more than a statistic - it has real life consequences. When women, who make up nearly half the workforce but bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families, and over a lifetime of work, far less savings for retirement. And in most cases some of these women are single parents who support an entire family with their salary.

Recently President Obama signed into law the Paycheck Fairness Act, a comprehensive and commonsense bill that updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. And prior to this January 29, 2009, President Obama signed his very first piece of legislation: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law, named after a woman who discovered her employer was paying her less than men doing the same job, makes it easier for Mrs. Ledbetter and others like her to effectively challenge unequal pay.

So in spite of these accomplishments, women still have a long road to travel in terms of receiving equal pay.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

Mentorship has made a difference in both my professional and personal lives because it has coached me to improve in areas I overlooked in the past. My relationships with mentors have introduced me to new ways to effectively manage the "business of serving people." It has added value and a network of support 24/7 that is now equally reciprocated.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?

I admire Linda McGill Boasmond, CEO and President of chemical manufacturing plant Cedar Concepts Corporation in Chicago. She shares my dream that girls may one day be candidates for her to hire, those of whom are lacking in STEM related industries, like manufacturing. Mrs. McGill Boasmond is a history maker as the only female of African American decent to own and operate her own chemical manufacturing plant in the United States.

What do you want Girls 4 Science to accomplish in the next year?

My goal for Girls 4 Science is to double its capacity at all of our current locations across the Chicagoland area and to offer professional training to teachers to continue the advancement of interest and success for young girls in STEM fields.

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