There are increasing numbers of women and young girls interested in entering the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. However, women are still vastly underrepresented in career fields such as pilot, mechanical engineer, vehicle mechanic, and computer scientist, among many others. Both genders are equally capable of performing well in science, technology, engineering, and math, but women face certain hiring, promotion, and equal pay hurdles in many STEM fields that do not affect men in the same numbers. Here are some of the challenges that women in STEM encounter.
Lack of Confidence
Lack of confidence is a normal reaction to going into a field where you are an underrepresented minority, whether it is due to your race, gender, religion, or another factor. The majority that men hold in STEM careers can easily become a self-perpetuating cycle as women lack the confidence required to become a trailblazer and possibly one of the only women to have a particular job title at a company. One way to overcome this is to have more visible female role models. Visibility gives impressionable young people especially the confidence to know that they can enter a particular sector just as well as anyone else. Having a mentor of the same demographic group is another way to help women in STEM to build confidence.
Stereotypes can be very harmful to underrepresented groups entering a STEM education or career. One of the negative stereotypes encountered by women in STEM includes thinking that they are quota hires. Another stereotype is that women who enter STEM fields are somehow less feminine than those who enter more stereotypically female jobs. This is harmful because masculinity and femininity have nothing to do with someone’s ability to do their job well. Although stereotypes can be deep-rooted in society, one way to overcome negative assumptions includes better education surrounding topics such as gender.
In career sectors that have typically mostly had men, the work environment may have evolved in such a way that is less accommodating to women. One example is a company being inhospitable to the idea of taking time off in order to deal with sick children, which is a responsibility that often goes to women, even in two-parent households.
While not easy, one way to overcome an inhospitable work environment for women in STEM is for a woman to start their own business in a STEM field. People starting a business should carefully consider which type of business structure would be best for their specific financial needs. In addition, new business owners should always check the rules and regulations in their state regarding company ownership.
Another hurdle is that some women may be unaware of professional development courses available to them in STEM fields. Staying up to date with knowledge and skills is important to improving the chances of getting a promotion and having other career opportunities arise. Completing an educational course and passing an assessment at the end show that someone has certain skills and is willing to go the extra mile to learn new skills.
Accessibility to Freelance Opportunities
Women in STEM may also be unaware of the freelancing opportunities available to them, such as becoming software developers for small businesses. Freelancing enables clients to work from anywhere with people in their chosen career fields.
Consider these challenges if you are a woman in STEM, and take advantage of things such as freelancing to boost your resume.
About the Author (Sarah Noel)
Sarah Noel and her boyfriend, both left corporate jobs to work as freelancers, chasing balance between the work they loved and the life they wanted. They’ve taught themselves how to work smarter, not harder. They’ve committed to separating work and home so that they can enjoy both. Now, with TaylorandNoel.com, they’re sharing their best practices with other freelancers, in hopes they can do the same.