Michelle graduated from STA in 1988. She is a senior economist at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What words of wisdom do you have for young women at STA who are interested in pursuing a career in a STEAM field?
I remain encouraged by Generation Z! This generation is neither confined nor constrained by society’s definitions of “the natural order of things.” Instead, GenZ is a cohort that has defined success on their own terms. If they desire to pursue a STEAM career, this generation will define and forge their own path to success, even if that path is circular or crooked, and not the straight and narrow that was the blueprint for GenX and older.
If STEAM is your career choice, embrace it and determine how best to move toward this goal in a way that doesn’t compromise your values. I also encourage you to reach out to a St. Teresa’s Academy alumna to find a mentor in your field of choice. I’ve always considered my time at STA as the reason I’ve been able to excel in a male-dominated field like economics. I was made to feel that I mattered and was valued. I never felt diminished or inferior due to my gender. The confidence and assurance that was afforded me as a result of my education at STA has allowed me to walk confidently into rooms where I was often the only woman and/or only African American woman.
What drove you toward a STEAM career path? Were you inspired by anyone?
After graduating STA, I was on the pre-med track. I excelled in math and science at STA, so that seemed the natural fit. However, I took organic chemistry and economics in the same semester in college. While I loved the organic chemistry lab, I didn’t very much like organic chemistry itself. But the lightbulb clicked for me with economics. The coursework was easier for me than chemistry and it felt like I was embracing a long-lost friend. My advisor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Dr. F. Eugene Wagner, was my inspiration. He encouraged me to pursue a career with the federal government and I applied to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics right after earning my bachelor’s degree in economics. I’ve had the opportunity to work in Kansas City, San Francisco, and in Washington, D.C. -- twice. Over the course of my 21-year federal career, I’ve also worked for the United States Census Bureau in the Kansas City and New York City Regional Offices.
What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
The most interesting aspect of my job is research. In October 2019, my article “Time Use of Millennials and Non-Millennials” was published in the Monthly Labor Review https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2019/article/pdf/time-use-of-millennials-an.... I’m currently working on the second iteration of this research by comparing time use of Millennials in 2019 with Generation X at the same age in 2003. When most think of economics, we think in terms of supply and demand or maximizing resources. However, economics is so much more than that. Surveys such as the American Time Use Survey analyze how Americans spend their time. Time use is impacted by a number of variables such as gender, marital status, education, employment status, and/or the presence of children in the household. Researchers, economists, and statisticians, for example, can use data to measure changes in the time Americans spend working, and participating in household production and leisure at different points in a business cycle. Time use data can also help leaders make informed decisions regarding potential policy implications.