Women in STEM: 3 Challenges we face ̶ and how to overcome them
“One of my main worries after graduating isn’t necessarily securing a job but is being accepted in the workplace,” said Marlee Kopetsky, a biomedical engineering student with a focus in psychology at Stevens Institute of Technology.
Women have made strides in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math): They made up 27% of STEM workers in 2019, compared with just 8% in 1970, according to research from the U.S. Census Bureau. But, that means that men still make up 73% of all STEM workers.
Many women who are in college and pursuing STEM careers, like me, share Kopetsky’s concern. Although there has been an increase in the number of women in STEM careers, there are still many challenges we face that can make it intimidating when considering a job after college.
Three of the big challenges we face are 1) Confidence 2) Lack of mentorship and 3) Understanding our salary.
There are many of us who feel this way, but we must not forget that we are not alone and there are ways that we can help get over these challenges.
It’s easy to feel a lack of confidence in various settings. For example, when it comes to understanding material, many times we may feel that we must be an expert on a topic to speak up, apply for a position, or work on a project.
It’s important to remember that no one is an expert in the beginning. If you have something to contribute, you should speak up. Don’t let that fear, that lack of confidence, keep you from an opportunity.
“If you are a perfectionist like me, starting on a new technical project can be daunting,” said Simona Aksman, a senior data scientist at 23andMe. “You may feel that you need to have a deep level of expertise to even get started. My advice is to focus on creating a small working prototype. Creating something that works, no matter how small, can give you a major confidence boost that may motivate you to keep going!”
Whenever we may feel overwhelmed, breaking it up into small pieces can help us build confidence on a certain topic, which will allow us to break that fear, tackle the project and find new opportunities.
Confidence is key and something that we can work on step by step to conquer.
It will also be helpful if our colleagues are supportive. It’s definitely not easy being the only woman or one of a few women on a team – especially if you are just starting out in your career. A little support from the team will go a long way!
“I think what is needed is encouragement and appreciation,” said Mitsu Patel, a student at Rutgers University majoring in cell biology and neuroscience. “Women should be respected for the work they do and must be appreciated in order to inspire other women to join in and feel confident.”
Confidence is not only something we can work on for ourselves but also give to those around us to help support and lift each other up.
Lack of mentorship
Unfortunately, many women in STEM careers don’t feel like they have mentors to ask questions, learn more about their career path, or have some guidance when they are feeling lost. There are many women who are first-generation college students who do not have family members in the industry, know anyone who is in the position they would like to pursue, and may not have a support system at all.
The truth is, a mentor can be a professor, a friend who is pursuing a career, a professional you connected with on LinkedIn, and just about anyone who can help you better understand what questions you may have about your career and how to go about different situations you may deal with.
So, don’t worry if you don’t know anyone. And don’t wait for someone to assign you a mentor. Reach out to a professor, an alumnus from your school or someone you met at an industry event or on LinkedIn. Reach out to several people. You’d be surprised how willing people are to talk to you, give you advice and help you – if you just ask.
Continue Reading: CNBC