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Five hacks for women to get ahead in STEM

women in STEM
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It’s a no-brainer: it has been reported that closing the gender gap in STEM fields would mean an increase in EU GDP per capita by 2.2 to 3.0 per cent in 2050.

The World Economic Forum 2019 confirms that despite women making up most of the young university graduates each year, they are drastically underrepresented in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) and Computer Science. When ethnicity is included, the numbers are even less encouraging. The share of science and engineering degrees is even smaller for Black and Hispanic women, and their pay gap larger. On average, boards in the information technology industry are made of only 12 per cent women. This is a clear missed opportunity!

Some of the reasons why women leave these fields are isolation, lack of effective critical feedback and mentoring, lack of support or inappropriate interactions, a clear pay gap, lack of flexible job structures to integrate life and work, lack of role models they can relate to and at times the loss of self-confidence.

Here are some hacks you can implement to get ahead in STEM, which I have gained from my own experience in Technology but also from empowering fellow women for the past 17 years in over 80 countries as an executive coach:

Stick with your passion

If you found your passion in STEM, stick with it. You belong there and your contribution to science, technology, engineering or mathematics is unique and can only come from you. Don’t shy away from sharing it and taking risks, you are where you are meant to be.

Make difference an advantage

Sometimes you may be the only woman in the room but being different can be an asset. You may be the only one that can see the specific problem from a certain angle or perspective. Your unique viewpoint may be exactly what is needed to solve the problem - Make standing out your advantage.

Test the rules

Sometimes the “rules” are not really rules, they are just a set of traditional processes. If they don’t serve you, try testing their flexibility - re-shape them and re-engineer them. You will be surprised how often you can redefine them and how many of them were not really rules, just habits or old, outdated paradigms.

Failure is not the end - only further information

See failure as GPS coordinates. When they don’t get you to where you want to go, you should re-calibrate your coordinates and try again, rather than getting frustrated that you didn’t get there the first time. Failure is just further information that gets you closer to your target.

Be your number one fan

If you don’t believe in your own value, why should anyone do so? Believe in your own ideas - you are worth hiring, listening to and you are a smart contributor. When you are able to express your idea with conviction and enthusiasm, the chances that the rest of your team/leaders will share your enthusiasm is far higher.

Don’t miss critical feedback

Select 2-3 people who are key in your field, who you trust and support your success. Ask them “what do I need to do more of / less of to be a better _____ (fill in then blank with your career path). Try to pose these questions regularly both to yourself and others. You may not like to hear what they have to say, but you should still listen. You can decide how/if you will integrate their advice, but you will always be in a better position for knowing it. These simple, but crucial, questions will always help you move forward for the rest of what I wish is a brilliant career in STEM.

The world needs the talent and ideas of women in STEM if we want to fully embrace the digital revolution!

Gabriela MuellerAbout the author

Gabriela Mueller Mendoza is an energetic, empowering Coach and Professional Speaker. Prior to becoming an Executive Coach, she was an IT consultant for 12 years in the corporate world, working for some of the largest blue-chips companies. Her work reaches over 80 countries, helps thousands of women in tech giants, engineering corporations, academia and NGOs. She is the author of How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM (£14.99, Panoma Press) which seeks to empower all women in STEM with the tools for success.