Women On Making STEM a More Women-Friendly Field


In recent years, education reforms were undertaken to get more women to enrol in STEM fields like engineering but despite the changes, there's still a number of women who end up leaving the field for the same old reasons. A group of female STEM professionals suggests some steps in preparing women for these professions.

Given the recent success of young entrepreneurs and millennials in technology-related fields, more and more college students enroll in STEM courses and the numbers might be pushed even higher with a recent survey that shows how lucrative careers in engineering can be.

The main reasons women taking up engineering as well as those who are already STEM professionals are leaving their field is because derogatory comments, sexism, stereotyping, harassment, biases and opportunity gaps are some of the reasons female STEM professionals and students are leaving the field according to Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Other factors that drive women out of STEM professions are the biases that leaves great and talented engineers with lesser pay, fewer chances at getting promoted and work that doesn't maximize their skills and provide them with professional fulfillment.

Women abandoning science, technology and engineering is detrimental to moving the profession forward in terms of research and development. The demands in these fields are very high and losing talent means missing out on technological advancements and social innovations - especially those that addresses the needs of female customers.

In a leadership summit of the Women in STEM last August, female STEM practitioners came up with 3 suggestions to prepare women for their STEM careers and leadership.

  1. Set up women to succeed early on 

    Come up with plans and programs designed to develop future leaders. This is a common practice among successful organizations. Create programs to support and groom talented women and match them with the right coaches and mentors who understands different aspects of the business early on to prevent them from dropping out and changing their minds. This also includes building a team around these female leaders, their climb up the ladder of success is something that shouldn't be left to chance. Give them projects that will challenge their skills, connect them with experts they can learn from and sponsors that can support their ideas and help them build a bigger network.

  2. Call on the tribe

    A tribe is not just women supporting each other, it is also a team. A team that works collaboratively and supports consultative leadership. Empowering teams by involving them in the decision making process allows everyone to showcase their skills and abilities. According to one study, a group evaluation is a great deterrent of gender stereotyping.

  3. Act based on trust

    Regardless of gender, employees are hired because there was trust between the hire and the hiring party that he or she is qualified for the job and the hiring party trusts that the hire will fulfill the job well. When it comes to assigning projects and giving promotions, the trust is replaced by metrics. However, some factors like unconscious bias leave women at a disadvantage. These factors works against them and is perhaps the main reason why the largest number that quits and leave the field is those from the middle to senior levels in their careers.

To keep women in STEM, we should work towards making the system more rewarding for them. Making these 3 improvements will not immediately make it an eve playing field for women but it will open up walls an ease biases and remove expectations that prevents women from succeeding and discourages others from pushing forward in what otherwise could be a rewarding career.

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