Women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have a big gender disparity to make up. After all, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report women are underrepresented in each of the STEM industries. While 44 percent of full-time wage and salary workers in 2016 were women, the life, physical and social science occupations reported 42 percent women, the computer and mathematical occupations 25 percent, and the architecture and engineering occupations 14 percent.
With all the programs geared toward involving girls in STEM, hopefully, we are on our way to more representation of women in these fields. But, as we work to close the gender gap and solve gender inequality, successful women in STEM have learned how to make themselves known in this male-dominated space. Here’s how you can apply the tips from women in STEM careers to your own career journey:
Offer Your Opinion
It can be intimidating as a female to work in a male-dominated industry, but you should always participate in the conversation. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and do so in an open forum, not just in a one-on-one with your manager. Come prepared to back up your opinions in meetings. You bring a unique viewpoint that no one else can. That’s why companies are so focused on diversity these days. Most understand the value of everyone’s backgrounds and experience and how they contribute to a company’s bottom line. In fact, according to McKinsey & Company’s latest report, “Why diversity matters,” companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.
Find A Female Mentor
In male-dominated industries, it’s helpful to have a female mentor who has experienced similar challenges as you. This is not specific to STEM careers, as it can be insightful for any industry. Additionally, be a mentor. Find a woman more junior than you and guide her through her career journey. You may find you need to take the advice you’re giving your protégé. It’s a good reminder.
Be An Advocate (For Yourself)
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, female full-time, year-round workers made 80.5 cents for every dollar earned by a man. If your company doesn’t have a clear progression plan, you may have to ask for your next raise. When the time comes, be sure you’ve done your research – Salary.com has a good tool and so does Glassdoor. And while you don’t want to run around the office bragging about your latest accomplishment, take credit where it is due and accept compliments graciously (rather than saying “oh, it was no big deal” or “I’ve been getting lucky lately”).
This isn’t specific to women in STEM, it’s a requirement for all in the field. And can be applied to every industry. The advances of technology have enabled us to make informed decisions and we should embrace this at every opportunity. Decisions based on data inherently maximize reward and are less risky – because the data tells us so. Successful women in STEM tend to be solution-oriented and leverage the data they’re given to make the best possible decisions.
Practice Peer Networking
You typically think networking is essential for a career in sales, for example, not science. But it’s necessary for any industry. And, especially when you’re trying to build a support system. If you’ve built your peer support group, when you do speak up in meetings, you are more likely to have people backing you. According to Harvard Business Review’s “6 Things Successful Women in STEM Have in Common,” women who invest in peer networks are more likely than others to advocate for the ideas and skills of their peers and help them recover after a mistake.