Diversity & Inclusion
Communities / DEI / Education / Women in tech / Youth

How I Got Here: Carnegie Museums VP Gina Winstead connects Pittsburghers to STEM resources she wishes she’d had

The DEI pro's current work encapsulates a career's worth of lessons in access and representation. “If we're not there creating the technology," she said, "it's not going to include our voices.”

Gina Winstead. (Courtesy photo)

This is How I Got Here, a series where we chart the career journeys of technologists. Want to tell your story? Get in touch.

After years of exploration, Gina Winstead says her career in tech merges a lifetime of interests and expertise.

As the VP of inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility for Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Winstead’s job is to figure out how the museums can be safer and more inclusive for visitors and employees from marginalized communities. Whether it’s constructing social media harassment policies in response to Pride Month trolling or supporting day campers who’ve experienced racism, the 2023 RealLIST Connectors honoree seeks out ways to make museum experiences better.

“Sometimes you’re dealing with an employee who has done something that crosses the line,” Winstead told Technical.ly, “and sometimes it’s figuring out how to better train the rest of your employees to be culturally sensitive to the youths that we have in our programs.”

The McKeesport native has always been interested in a career in tech, she said, but for a long time she didn’t have access to STEM classes or much encouragement to pursue her interests at first; when she was young, her parents pushed her brother to exploring computers and science, but she wasn’t given the same encouragement. She also didn’t have access to many toys or programs that would have allowed her to learn independently.

In high school and college, she finally got the opportunity to take advanced science and biology courses.

“That’s where I figured [out] that I had a little bit more skills than maybe the average person, just getting through some neuro-psych classes in my undergrad, and really wanting to embrace that more,” said Winstead, who attended the University of Pittsburgh.

After occupying positions that ranged from working as therapeutic support staff for children with autism to selling jewelry, about a decade after college, she started working for a  local cybersecurity company. This led to a role with the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the business development organization focused on the city’s innovation economy, supporting both bizdev and diversity and inclusion efforts. She also served as a Greater Oakland Keystone Innovation Zone coordinator, representing the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development-run tax credit program for tech companies growing in the region.

The experience led to Winstead leaning more toward working in tech, and particularly tech equity. She came to realize that many Black, brown and women developers were unaware of resources that could assist them in gaining capital and other forms of financial investment. By acting as a connector, she grew passionate about sharing the knowledge she acquired in her work.

“The more that I can impact the programming and the people that work at those museums, the more that children can see that they belong in science in different ways and can learn about different jobs in biology or research or science or technology or innovation.”Gina Winstead

Now, through her work at Carnegie Museums and her time spent as VP of Women in Tech PGH, Winstead appreciates being able to expose others to what she wished she’d had growing up.

“I just realized that more women and more nonbinary people needed to see the representation and see that there are products and ways that we’re interacting and engaging with technology every day that impact our lives,” Winstead said. “If we’re not there creating the technology, if we’re not there building the video game, [etc.], it’s not going to include our voices.”

These days, her work combines her love of science, history, technology and STEAM education. Winstead pointed out that some of the jobs available in the tech industry are spurred by experiences found in museums. With that in mind, in addition to the museum having been one of her favorite places to visit while growing up, she wants to ensure that institutions like the Carnegie Science Center and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History are welcoming spaces for the region’s youth.

“I definitely wanted to see the museum industry get more inclusive,” Winstead said. “The more that I can impact the programming and the people that work at those museums, the more that children can see that they belong in science in different ways and can learn about different jobs in biology or research or science or technology or innovation.”

Prior to entering tech, she said, she had a lot of jobs, but not a true career. If there’s one thing she wishes she could change, it’s that she didn’t always know her full potential.

Winstead advises anyone considering entering the tech sector that it’s important to have a community. It’s also important to remember that diversity and inclusion doesn’t equal others being excluded.

“I think there’s a misperception that it automatically excludes people when all it does is make the umbrella much bigger, the circle much bigger, to pull everybody in,” Winstead said. “There’s this misconception that is also kind of punitive, that I’m here to tell people what they’re doing wrong.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Pittsburgh Technology Council
Series: DEI Progress Month 2023 / How I Got Here
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