As one of 120 national ambassadors to the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) IF/THEN program, Lindsey Dietz knows that many elementary- and middle-school-age girls lose interest in math.
The significant drop, she said, is not due to a lack of aptitude, "but from a lack of positive role models pushing them forward."
An ambassador since 2019, Dietz, who grew up in Elk River, Minn., is happily leveraging her national platform to do the pushing. When given the chance to allocate a $10,000 grant from IF/THEN, Dietz applied hers to Project Scientist, which offers STEM-geared summer camping experiences to girls from 4 to 12 years old.
"I was able to help them during the pandemic — a very challenging time for nonprofits," said Dietz, financial economist manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.
"And I got other STEM women from the Fed involved. It was a nice marriage of my current work and outside passions."
Those passions include Dietz's coordination of a local "R Ladies" chapter (referring to an international organization dedicated to promoting gender diversity in data science) and a Minneapolis conference called noRth, which has prompted even greater STEM outreach.
"We've talked to as many as 30 to 50 girls in a single day," said Dietz of her STEM influencer efforts.
Her advocacy and tireless professional work has garnered attention: Dietz received the 2020 William Taylor Award — the Federal Reserve Board of Governors' highest and most prestigious honor — for her leadership in improving the efficiency of stress tests on banks during the pandemic.
Dietz, 37, also landed on Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal's 2022 list of "40 Under 40" honorees.
Ken Heinecke, deputy head of supervision at the Federal Reserve, calls Dietz "a terrific ambassador for STEM careers, both inside and outside the Fed."
"I am continually impressed with the energy she brings to her local endeavors that include advancing women in the field of computer programming."
"It takes a team," Dietz said. "No matter how hard you work or how good your output is, you can't win a game by yourself."
Building back from near-tragedy
A team player she is. Years of excellence in sports instilled in Dietz the value of working well with others long before she joined the Fed in 2016.
A 2002 Elk River High School graduate, Dietz was competitive and driven. She was an All-State softball player, All-State honorable mention soccer defender and All-State basketball standout, along with being a top-five Miss Basketball contender and an Athena Award recipient.
She became a three-time All-American basketball player at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she earned bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics.
Dietz capped that with a Ph.D. in statistics from the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus.
"When I got to college, I knew I liked math but I didn't have a lot of direction as to what that might mean in the end," said Dietz, who never imagined herself working in the field of finance.
But just before moving to the Fed, a near tragedy almost sidelined her.
Struck by a car in 2015 while walking in downtown Minneapolis, Dietz spent six weeks in rehabilitation following surgery.
"It was a very challenging time for me personally," she said. "Recovering from major trauma and being in a nursing home at age 30 was a very compelling experience. I had a head injury and was nervous I couldn't complete the goals I had at that time."
Aspects of her life were dramatically altered: Competitive sports are history, her knee holds "permanent hardware" and she now favors road cycling, yoga and physical therapy-based Pilates routines since she can no longer run or jump.
But the incident propelled her to positives, too.
"It changed my outlook on spending time with family and pursuing some things I didn't necessarily think were as important before," said Dietz.
That included accelerating her advocacy of young women and underrepresented minorities interested in STEM careers.
"As I get further along in my career, I feel more confident taking risks for those not confident enough to take them themselves," said Dietz.
A friend and fellow STEM volunteer, University of St. Thomas statistics Prof. Christina Knudson, works with Dietz to plan R Ladies events and noRth conferences.
"Lindsey handles whatever life serves her," said Knudson.
"Rather than complain or deny tough truths, she accepts reality and problem-solves to find the best possible solutions."
Grateful for the support of family, friends, skilled colleagues, her partner Todd Watts and prodigious opportunities stemming from hard work, Dietz is just getting started.
"I'm glad to be in this space," said Dietz, "and I'm hoping I can make a real difference."
Jane Turpin Moore is a Northfield-based writer and frequent contributor to Inspired.