This year’s Miss USA, Kara McCullough, is breaking boundaries and inspiring pageant viewers across the country – not just for her charm and good looks, but for her scientific background and military experience as well. Kara works as a scientist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and holds a degree in radiochemistry from South Carolina State University, and a Captain in the US Army Reserve. She is a minority woman, a beauty pageant winner, and clearly an intelligent and talented professional of the energy industry. Here’s what we can learn from her.

The Importance of Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity in the workplace is of growing importance in an international business environment. When working with multiple different ethnicities, genders, age, and lifestyles, there can be difficulties in maintaining a strong team-focused environment. But a manager with global perspective recognizes the value of building a diverse workforce.

Employing workers from multiple different backgrounds provides tangible benefits to an organization. There are measurable increases in productivity, creativity, language skills, and company reputation. Growth comes from innovation and the pursuit of new ideas. Hiring and supporting workers of all backgrounds incorporate the unique perspectives and experiences of each individual. In a global market, companies who cannot understand the large demographics of their own customers are setting themselves up for failure.

A Growing Emphasis on STEM Learning

In addition to the need for a more diverse workforce, STEM education is clearly an important factor in the long term success of the energy industry. As women like Kara McCullough come into the spotlight, a growing interest in science and technology education and careers could be a direct result. Compared to the wealth of actresses and musicians who stand as role models for young women, smart and professionally successful scientists like Kara may just inspire a new generation of female STEM students, something that has long been said to be a substantial barrier to bridging the skills gap within the energy industry.

The Rise of Women in Science and Technology

For an extended period of time, women have had very little presence within the science and technology industries. But it’s high profile energy professionals like Kara McCullough who signal a change in the industry, in the culture, and in the workforce. All companies struggle to meet the demands of a rapidly changing industry and bridge the skills gap. The energy industry can only benefit from an increase in talent by hiring more women to the field. Kara McCullough is an example many women can look up to. Her contribution to society expands into her founding of a community outreach program called “Science Exploration for Kids”, which creates interactive activities celebrating math and science to inspire and nurture students’ passion for science and technology. She plans to continue her work in the Army Reserve after winning the Miss USA title, and pursue a career as a motivational speaker.

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