Women have made significant strides in the STEM field. While science, technology, engineering, and math used to be completely male dominated, women now make up about 27% of employees in these industries in the U.S. While this is a giant leap forward for women from the 1970 total of only 8%, it is also clear the we still have a long way to go.
At Job Transitions, we believe it is essential to be aware of the challenges in the field to overcome them down the line. Here, we share three potential roadblocks and viable solutions for them.
Lack of Mentorship and Support
It can be lonely being a minority in a male-dominated world. Many women in STEM are also first-generation college students, immigrants, or come from a family where there is no knowledge of the industry. This results in a lack of a support system, which can be highly frustrating as you advance in your career. You will need a mentor who can guide you through questions you may have and help you respond to different situations that may come up.
You’ll need to start reaching out to people and asking for advice—which is easier than you may think. A past professor, a high school teacher, someone you met at a networking event or LinkedIn—exhaust your reach and try your best to build a robust support system. Have business cards on you all the time; you can easily create a business card design online. You’ll be able to get firsthand information about companies, personal stories, resume advice, referrals, and interview prep, which is truly invaluable.
Lack of Ownership and confidence
According to a study by Frontiers Magazine, women have 67% less opportunity than men regarding STEM industries. This lack of opportunity can affect the level of ownership and confidence young women have. However, if you’re a senior in high school or about to graduate from university, you need work experience to propel your career further.
How can you work on this? Well, many young women choose to start their own business in their specialty of choice. This helps them seize back control over their careers and forge a unique space within the industry. Not to mention, being your own boss is a great way to gain back confidence! Luckily, as a minority in an essential field, you will have your pick of funding opportunities.
Grants can help you start and operate your new business with ease—but it is a process that takes time and effort. Start looking for grants early on (look for ones earmarked for your STEM niche), and keep a solid business plan and fantastic grant application at the ready. An attractive grant funding opportunity in the US is the STEM Talent Challenge from the Economic Development Administration.
Lack of Equitable Salaries
A study by PewResearch has revealed that women earn less than men in STEM, with an average salary of $66,000 to men’s $90,000. There are many reasons for this, such as self-confidence, encouragement, market conditions, and more. But one thing is clear—you need to learn to talk about money.
It is critical that you do your research around going salaries for jobs and ask clarifying questions to further your knowledge. Look up websites like Glassdoor and Onet to learn about salary information, and don’t be afraid to have these discussions with your peers and mentors. Another essential part of earning an equitable salary is to know your worth—you will need to learn the skill of negotiating to keep your salary where you want it to be.
We believe taking up space in the STEM field starts early. If you’re a high school senior looking to pursue a STEM career, you need to be aware of the many challenges coming your way. But never fear—use your stellar problem-solving abilities to break through the barriers and achieve success in your field. You’ve got this!
This article is brought to you by Job Transitions, where our mission is to provide expert resume and cover letter writing services, along with the timely delivery of professional development and job search strategies that facilitate the accomplishment of career goals. For more information, please contact us today!