Kate Snyder is the principal strategist and owner of Piper & Gold Public Relations, a boutique PR agency in Michigan. She and her team work with organizations like government agencies, nonprofits and small businesses to help them figure out how to connect with people. Technology is a huge component in this — technology allows people to connect in a whole new set of ways and she works with organizations to help them take advantage of digital tools like social media, blogs, software tools and more to build meaningful relationships. Kate also co-founded Domestic Slice, a lifestyle blog. Kate shares her story with us….
Sarah Worsham: In your entire career, what’s been your favorite job or project and why?
Kate Snyder: One of the organizations I volunteer and work with is Impression 5 Science Center. I spent eight years in communications at a government agency that worked on helping people connect with jobs, so I saw on a daily basis the importance of STEM education. Working with I5 is fantastic in so many ways — I know it’s important and makes a difference, but it’s also just super fun. I mean, you get to play with bubbles. Bubbles at work? Yes, please.
Sarah: Tell us about the 2020 Girls program. How did you get involved with it?
Kate: We’re fortunate to get to work with ITEC — the Information Technology Empowerment Center — as one of our clients at Piper & Gold. We came on just as this new program, 2020 Girls, was starting. It’s been such a cool experience to get to be a part of a program that’s so close to my heart. I was always told growing up that math was hard. It wasn’t until years later that I realized it wasn’t hard for me, I just perceived it to be. In actuality, I’m a huge data geek and love the numbers side of business. I feel like if I’d been a boy, I never would have been “sheltered” from math. Giving these girls a chance to connect with other women telling them, “You can do this. This is meaningful,” is such an important and powerful thing for them to hear.
Sarah: Was there a particular event or moment when you decided to pursue a career in STEM?
Kate: I really grew up believing I was bad at math and science. My grades didn’t support that theory but I just believed these were supposed to be hard. I’ve always been involved in music and theater and people were constantly telling me I should study music or art or writing in school. In the end, I studied all of them and got a liberal arts degree. It wasn’t until I got into PR and starting using all of these phenomenal digital tools that I realized I was a part of the STEM world. I use technology on a daily basis to do my job and advance my company and my field. I use all of these “hard” things and I really enjoy it.
Sarah: What has been most important in terms of getting where you are today?
Kate: I was fortunate to work under mentors who gave me a lot of responsibility and freedom as it related to my positions and I think that’s made a huge difference. I’ve always had a very “figure it out yourself” kind of mentality as it relates to work and having the freedom to do my job and earning trust as a leader has been huge.
Sarah: Did you have any mentors or role models growing up that led you to this career? How did they influence you?
Kate: Early in my career I had several very traditional mentors — mostly my bosses. Now, as an entrepreneur, I find myself looking up to and gaining so much from peers of mine in entrepreneurship. It’s such a unique and different work experience to own a business, to have people counting on you, to be the end of the line on every major decision — it’s been so critical for me to have these peers who have a shared experience in entrepreneurship.
Sarah: Have you ever had any difficulties in your career due to your gender? How did you handle them?
Kate: I look young. I’m blonde. I’m “perky.” I remember as far back as high school having a (male) teacher who called me Barbie, a moniker that was repeated most of my life including on a feedback form from a student at a college at which I teach. “It was nice getting to look at Malibu Barbie all semester,” was the exact comment. You don’t forget that comment. I’ve been called “little girl” and “sweetheart.” Once a guy actually patted me on the top of my head. I wanted to punch him.
When I was younger and less confident I would just let it roll off my back or quietly seethe about it. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In had a profound effect on me professionally. I realized I was contributing to the problem by not addressing sexism as it occurred and I was subconsciously treating male and female students, interns, employees and clients differently. Now when someone says something inappropriate, I point blank state, “That was incredibly sexist,” or “That is not an appropriate way to talk to a colleague.” I just went off on an individual the other day for saying, “Don’t go getting all emotional on me, Mom,” to a woman who had just returned from maternity leave. It may have felt like a harmless statement to him, or it could have been an attempt to bond with a fellow parent, but it set me off. I immediately reacted with, “It is never appropriate to connect emotions and gender or parental status in the workplace. Never.”
Sarah: What advice do you have to anyone interested in a similar career?
Kate: I feel like the world of social and digital media is one of the areas of the tech community where you can find a huge base of female colleagues and coworkers, and I love that about it. I also think that it’s important for all of us to be well-versed in the STEM disciplines regardless of our intended career path. When I first started off to be a writer, I never realized how heavily software and digital platforms would affect what I do, nor did I recognize that as a small business owner, numbers would become my life. STEM is everywhere.
Sarah: In your opinion, how can we get more girls interested in STEM careers?
Kate: I think we need to break down the stigmas that these disciplines are harder than anything else you’ll do. Being awesome at ANYTHING is hard. Get over it. Being awesome is also fun and rewarding, whether that’s in engineering or music.
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Thanks Kate! We hope you found her story helpful, interesting and inspiring. If you would like to share your own story, please submit your information and we’ll be in contact soon!