gender equality

4 Challenges Women Face in the STEM Fields – by Julie Morris

How to Overcome Them

Representation is important, and more voices at the table make for better decisions, better products, and more inclusive business practices. While the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math continue to grow and change, the need for highly-motivated, well-trained women is also on the rise. However, men still make up nearly 75% of the STEM workforce and women still face several barriers to entry in these high-demand careers.

1. Sexism in Education

According to research from Western Governors University, female college students often face prejudice from male professors that can discourage them from pursuing STEM careers. While women and men are equally smart and talented, young women facing sexism in their school and work environments are likely to choose majors that are more inclusive and better for their mental health. Additionally, girls from rural communities without significant resources may not have affordable access to traditional higher education, barring them from pursuing STEM programs altogether.

While sexism is a systemic problem, it is not insurmountable. It’s important for parents, teachers, and industry leaders to get young girls excited about STEM fields by highlighting and celebrating female scientists and tech professionals.

2. Lack of Mentorship

Having a mentor is key to success in any career field. Mentorship encourages development and goal setting, leading to a quality and efficient workforce. Because of a shortage of women in STEM leadership positions, there are not enough mentors for young female professionals wanting to advance in their respective industries.

Thankfully, social media offers a platform for high-achieving professionals to support the next generation without stretching themselves too thin. Connecting with and following female leaders in your industry is a great way to gain insight as you climb the ladder. You’ll find many female CEOs who faced the same struggles and are happy to help you overcome these challenges.

3. Confidence Issues

Every day, talented and reliable women are overlooked for positions simply because they don’t apply. If you read a job description and you don’t check every single box, it’s easy to just move on instead of facing the possibility of rejection. It’s important to remember that no one is perfect, and you must take risks and face fears to get ahead. Being honest about your knowledge and experience, as well as being teachable and open to new ideas, will earn you a lot of points in a job interview.

Additionally, many women in the STEM fields are just excited to get job offers and will accept positions they are overqualified for with salaries that don’t match industry standards. It’s essential to do your research, know your worth and stand up for yourself in the negotiation stage. Accepting a low-paying position at a company that doesn’t value diversity not only sets you up for failure, but it hinders the forward progression of equitable treatment for minorities across the workforce.

4. Gender Role Assumptions

Companies have always been more reluctant to invest in female employees over males. Women are often criticized for “wanting it all” when referring to career and family, but today, a healthy and productive work-life balance is possible for working wives and mothers. Yet, hiring managers still worry about hiring young women who may take maternity leave or mothers who may need too much time off for doctor’s appointments and parent-teacher meetings.

If you’re having trouble finding the right job with supportive leadership, consider using your STEM degree and credentials to start your own business. The National Women’s Business Council offers support for female entrepreneurs looking to secure capital. You can market your services by attending industry events or building workshops. Handing out personalized business cards is often more effective than sending emails. Use a free business card maker to easily customize your branding, text, and font for simple and elegant marketing materials that help you stand out.

As a woman interested in a STEM career, there are many hurdles to clear on the way to the top. The key is to keep your eye on the prize and continue to engage in conversations about diversity, inclusion, and workplace equality.

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