Let’s just go ahead and admit it—
Even in our modern times, the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math) remain a male-dominated area. In 2017-2018, women made up only 36% of bachelor’s degree recipients across all STEM-related fields. As master’s degree recipients, that number dropped to 34%. On top of that, they receive lower salaries than their male colleagues and drop out of their STEM careers way more often (with good reason!).
The statistics above might sound bleak and discouraging, but we hold in our own hands the power to change the well-established order of things. And it certainly needs an overhaul! That’s why today, I want to focus on tips for women on how to advance and develop your career, especially if you’re a recent STEM graduate.
Stay True to Yourself
Experience shows us that many women in STEM, especially those who hold higher positions, might decide to play tougher — either by themselves or responding to their colleagues’ or manager’s advice. This can be in the form of being stricter and less empathic at the workplace or trying not to show what might be perceived as a “too-feminine” side.
Or, maybe, you do have a strong personality and come off as pushy and loud — some might recommend you to chill out, while giving male colleagues with similar characteristics a pass.
There will always be people who’d like you to be more or less something, just to make you more convenient to deal with. The truth is, you’re more likely to succeed if you stay honest with yourself and avoid changing simply to please people at your workplace.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak Up
According to HBR, 82% of women working in STEM say that their ideas and contributions are ignored. That’s quite an astonishing (and depressing) figure! To succeed in your chosen field, it is crucial to not be hesitant or shy as you pursue your interest. In such situations, remember that your opinion matters and has value, and make sure to communicate this to your associates.
Even though I mentioned that you should stay authentic, you should step up your confidence, as this might save you many times if you want to build a successful career. It’s not about pretending to be an arrogant know-it-all, but having adamant awareness of your own worth and the expertise you can bring to the table.
Find a Group of Like-Minded People
One of the problems for women pursuing a career in STEM is the lack of female role models, mentors, and, simply, peers and friends. That’s why it is crucial to ensure you feel a true sense of belonging at your workplace. And, if you know the pain and have encountered the same problem, there are many ways to find people who are going through similar circumstances and difficulties.
For example, you can join the WomenTech Network, if you haven’t done so yet. This platform is full of possibilities, including chances to connect with like-minded peers, grow your career, find a mentor, and participate in all kinds of events, from conferences to networking opportunities.
And, don’t forget to pay it forward when you get the chance! Because, you know the old adage, “If you want to go far, go together.”
Don’t Stop Learning
STEM industries are constantly evolving and developing, and you need to keep up, as well. In this case, stagnation actually means regression. You don’t have to limit yourself to only one particular topic, trying to master it to perfection, but you can also broaden your horizons and add to your knowledge portfolio in some adjacent domains or related areas.
Also, if you aspire to become a manager or entrepreneur in the future, you could take some courses related to empowerment at the workplace, leadership, or team management. That way, you’ll become a well-rounded specialist who stays on top of the current trends and can successfully compete in the job market.
Listen to Your Inner Voice
You might face plenty of situations that will make you question if you are right for the position you hold, or even STEM fields in general, though fingers crossed you don’t! If you find yourself with these unpleasant, existential thoughts, try your best to tone down all external voices — those of your co-workers, friends, or, maybe, even family.
Instead, try to take some time and reflect on what’s important for you. Think about why you found yourself in science, mathematics, engineering, or technology in the first place, and if you’re still enjoying what you do.
If not, is it the industry itself that tired you out, your company, the current position, or something else? Further steps you take should be based on the answers you’ll honestly admit to, and nothing else.
These are just some of the important tips to keep in mind if you want to advance and succeed in STEM as a female graduate. I do hope you’ll find them useful and can put them into practice! If you have any comments or further tips for female STEM grads, leave a comment below. To all my fellow ladies out there, good luck on your career journey!