How to overcome adversity and thrive in STEM careers

Gender shouldn’t impact anyone’s career, but unfortunately, women are still underrepresented in STEM industries – here’s how to set yourself up for success

Although women contribute to roughly half (47.7%) of the global workforce, only 27% of the STEM workforce are women in the US, 24% in the UK, and less than 30% in China. Women pursuing STEM careers are therefore likely to face adversity – but these tips are the stepping stones to help women thrive, both individually and collectively. 

Find a mentor

As the majority of STEM roles are held by men, it’s believed that women are deterred from pursuing careers in these industries as there is a lack of female representation. In fact, studies have shown that having suitable role models in STEM sectors are more important to women than men, with 60% of women sharing that they’ve been inspired by female role models. Finding an experienced mentor is not only a source of inspiration, but also a great ally to turn to when you need support or advice. 

Understand your value and know the market

Unfortunately, we still live in a world where men and women are not paid equally. Although the gender pay gap is slowly closing, it’s important to do your research and understand the salary expectations for each job. To do so, ensure companies you’re applying to have an equal pay policy, and job descriptions that are clear and transparent. Do your research to understand what other employers are offering employees at your level, and how the jobs you’re applying for measure up. 

Build a network

Networking is one of the most powerful principles of business, so if you find yourself in a male-dominated role, having a supportive group of women can help your situation. Studies have shown that 42% of women in the US have been discriminated against at work because of their gender – a statistic that reinforces the importance of women’s networks. Reaching out to other women in your company – or even via LinkedIn – is a great way to start creating a solid, supportive network that will likely benefit you, and others, too. 

Break the mould

Knowing that there are few women in STEM sectors shouldn’t be a deterring factor – it should be seen as an opportunity to thrive and break the mould. Starting difficult conversations, challenging policies and supporting other women are all opportunities to create a safer space for future generations, by promoting an inclusive environment. Women have a profound impact on a company’s work culture, according to McKinsey, stating that company profits and share performance can be close to 50 percent higher when women are well represented at the top of a company. 

Never stop learning

The internet has a never-ending list of STEM courses that you can take – most of which are virtual and free. So instead of scrolling through your social media feed at night or binge watching the latest Netflix series, invest a few extra hours into additional learning. The extra knowledge will not only boost your confidence, but show future employers that you are proactively learning and progressing too. Although studying while you have a full-time role can be tricky, there are certain tips you can adopt to ensure you create a healthy work-life balance.


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