By Catherine Adenle
Explore these 7 ways to get more women into male-dominated STEM careers. We now live in a fantastic era in which women are encouraged to do practically everything in the professional world. However, the gender gap in STEM careers is vast and does not seem to be closing any time soon. STEM careers are a growing field in which women can be very successful, but they must break through the gender stereotypes surrounding those industries.
There is a documented shortage of women in STEM industries in the UK. The Royal Academy of Engineering and Engineering UK, amongst others, conducted research that clearly documented this. The UK needs 100,000 new graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects every year until 2020 just to maintain the current employment numbers. What is more staggering is the percentage of females who make up the current engineering workforce in the UK. It’s only 6%.
It’s inevitable that as women get into STEM careers, more young girls will begin to recognize the additional career opportunities open to them. With more women in STEM, it will be evident to young girls what they can offer the world of STEM.
Here are 7 Ways to Get More Women Into Male-Dominated STEM Careers:
If we want women to dominate STEM industries or at the very least reduce the growing gender gap, we must encourage the next generation to embrace STEM-related subjects and objectives in school. It is time to give girls the option of expanding their minds far beyond arts subjects and open them up to an interesting, fun and exploratory world of new discovery in STEM. Schools and community-oriented programs are becoming the norm in the STEM field and introducing young girls into these programs promotes an emphasis on science and mathematics which are essential to a successful STEM career. Supporting educational programs that will expose young girls to STEM will do a lot to reduce the current gender gap.
To get women to grow professionally in male-dominated STEM careers, we must encourage and empower women to build solid confidence and ignore intimidation in their STEM careers. It is easy to become intimidated by gender bias language in job descriptions of a male-dominated sector, but feeling intimidated will not work to women’s advantage. Women are wrongly and traditionally thought of as the weaker gender. This mindset has been integrated into the minds of some and it is up to women to show that the baseless notion that women are not on the same level as men is merely a figment of past imaginations. When negotiating salary, women are known to accept what’s on offer when they could potentially ask for more money. At times and when necessary, women in STEM need to exert dominance when required.
No man is an island. Women in STEM careers need to connect and be part of a team. There are great opportunities for professional networking online, women in STEM must take full advantage of this and join groups that could help their professional brand. Aim to learn as much as to share knowledge on such platforms. Gain followers’ trust by engaging in meaningful and positive dialogues online.
At work, leading a team could be a challenge for some women, especially when leading a primarily male-dominated STEM career team. When given the opportunity to lead, as women, we should take it on with the sense of dominance, but always maintain the mentality that if the project is to be a success, the entire team must be a success as well. In a leadership STEM position, delegate jobs according to team member capabilities, but also never be afraid to give a somewhat challenging task to a seemingly weaker team member. Once your team realizes that you are working for full team success instead of exerting dominance, they will respect you as a leader in a STEM environment rather than simply looking at you as a woman.
Mentors are models who we can emulate to build our own personal career qualities. The focus on finding great mentors that we as women can actually converse with within STEM career industries is key. The gender of your mentor truly makes no difference as long as they are successful in the field and well respected. You can mimic their leadership style and take note of how they conduct themselves professionally and connect to others in the same industry. Take the opportunity to pick their brain about aspects of the job and how they have become a success.
Infographic: 7 Ways to Get More Women Into Male-Dominated STEM Careers by Catherine Adenle
It goes without saying that a great reputation will get anyone far in their profession. There is an old saying that it takes years to build a reputation, but just a few seconds to tear it down. Women building a reputation for themselves within STEM-related careers will take time. Clients and co-workers will have to get to know them as a professional, so it is essential that women take on every task with integrity. Shortcuts, even those they see men in the field taking, should always be avoided. Sometimes, women take the long way around things in order to prove to male counterparts that we truly understand the task at hand. Women must continue to value their reputation in the field and how people perceive them even when others try to sway them away from how things are supposed to be accomplished. Even though a team mentality is needed, women’s personal reputation is valuable as well.
The ideal professional work environment is one where everyone maintains a non-gender specific mentality and instead focuses on tasks of the day. Women will inevitably run into a co-worker that maintains a negative view of women in STEM careers, but this is an opportunity for women to grow substantially in their professional career. They should not get discouraged by outdated ways of thinking, but instead, maintain professionalism. Always maintain authority in your career.
Once women have gained their status within their perspective STEM career, it is time to give back. They should proactively mentor others just starting out in the industry. Knowledge is power and empowering future generations with that knowledge is possibly the most important way women can have a positive impact on women in STEM careers. Include new women coming into the industry in webinars, meetings and projects. By mentoring new talent, established women in STEM can influence the industry as a whole.
Video: How to Engage More Girls in STEM
Women in STEM can take mentoring to another level as well by volunteering their time teaching the next generation about the need for more women in STEM careers. They should get involved with localized STEM programs as a professional influence to improve the program as well as have a true impact on the future of the industry. Giving back to young women in the industry allow them to see how their desire to make it in STEM careers is credible even when others tell them it is challenging.
Statistics show that only about 15.5% of all STEM career opportunities are held by women with some engineering fields only holding around 9% women. Currently, we are dealing with a male-dominated industry standard, but that is not how it has to be. The key to women success in STEM careers is for women to stand toe to toe with the men. Encourage other women of all ages to embrace science, technology, engineering, and maths so we will soon see an end to the male dominance of these industries.
Now that you have explored the 7 ways to get more women into male-dominated STEM careers, what can you add? Let us hear from you. Add your comments below.