S.T.E.M. careers, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, are among the highest-paying positions in any field. It wasn’t until 2014 when I realized that there is a huge opportunity for women in STEM. Most positions in these fields are currently held by men, but that’s changing and fast. According to Forbes, 17% of chemical engineers and 22% of environmental scientists are women. It is no secret that STEM fields have a reputation of being unwelcoming toward women and that women are underrepresented within these career paths. And, times, despite slowly, they are a-changing. The Forbes Most Powerful Women list for 2015 was filled with representation of influential, innovative, and leading women within STEM careers.
According to seek.org, when it comes to lower level, lower-paying STEM positions, 37% of database engineers, 46% of biological scientists, 78% of clinical laboratory technologists, and 91% of registered nurses are women. The problem isn’t that these industries don’t want to employ women, but that they cannot find qualified women to fill the positions. STEMCareer.com says this is because of a long-standing but now non-existent bias toward women in the industry. Because women haven’t been encouraged to pursue these careers, they haven’t received the education, and end up filling in lower-level positions than they’re capable of earning.
According to a recent study on STEMJobs.com; 78% of surveyed STEM employers say they want to hire more women in the future. If you’re interested in a STEM career, there’s never been a better time than now to pursue it.
Are you ready?
Let’s start by using strategies published by The American Association of University Women (AAUW) entitled10 Ways to Get More Women into Engineering and Tech:
- Take the implicit bias test.
- Remember that engineers are made, not born. One of the biggest hurdles to recruiting women is the idea that math and science prowess is inherent. The truth is, you can learn to be a great programmer or engineer. The brain is a muscle that needs to be worked to get stronger.
- Let the girls in your life tinker with things, break toys, get dirty, and fail. And let them know that adversity is common in these fields. Learning from and moving past failure is part of the design process.
- Know that Title IX is about more than athletics. It also applies to STEM education. If your school is limiting opportunities for women and girls to pursue STEM, it might be violating Title IX.
- Spread the word that engineering and computing fields have enormous social impact. Women, on average, prioritize “communal goals” in their careers, meaning that they value working with and helping people. Engineers and tech workers can engineer an artificial limb, come up with solutions for drought and famine, and prevent cyberattacks.
- If you’re a woman who works in engineering or tech, seek out opportunities to serve as a role model for girls and young women through groups and events that celebrate women in your field, such as the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing or the Society of Women Engineers.
- If you’re a man who works in engineering or tech, refuse to sit on panels that don’t have at least one woman. It’s true that there are fewer women than men in these fields, but there aren’t none. Send the message that women belong in engineering and tech by encouraging conferences to ask more women to speak.
- If you’re an employer, hold managers accountable for their hiring and promotion decisions. Make sure they can back their choices up without invoking gender stereotypes or assumptions.
- If you’re a manager, try removing gender info from job applications and evaluations. Our research shows that women workers and applicants face discrimination even when their experience is the same as their male counterparts.
- If you’re at or near the top of an organization, make it clear and explicit that attracting and retaining more women to do technical work (not just administrative) is a priority for your organization.