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This is a guest post from Leslie Campos. Opinions expressed by Engineering our Future contributors are their own.
If you have a degree or are pursuing a position in a STEM field (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), then you are already an impressive individual with a sharp mind. Unfortunately, if you are a woman in STEM then you may have an uphill battle as opportunities are sometimes limited when compared to their male counterparts. Here at Engineering Our Future, we know it is important to better our world with smart people who are looking to make a difference and become future leaders, so we have some tips for how women can overcome challenges and excel in STEM careers.
Lack of Confidence
You would think that someone who is an expert on scientific principles and advanced math would be brimming with confidence, but for many women, any ego they do have is quickly quieted when they get their first job and realize that they may not know as much as they thought they did right off of the bat. It is natural to feel that way in any new position, but it is important to remember that we are always learning.
The key is to be confident in the fact that if you stick to your guns and learn as much as you can then you will be an expert in your field in no time. Some women may feel that their male counterparts are not as supportive as they should be, but just remember that you can create your own confidence and your drive to succeed will impress a lot of people.
Lack of Opportunities
A trend is developing when it comes to women and STEM in which men who major in STEM programs vastly outnumber their female counterparts. In fact, women only make up 28% of all STEM programs, so there is an uphill battle of sorts. The issue is that many people view STEM fields as more masculine and when women start to believe that only men can work in those fields, they stop trying as hard.
However, women must not fall into this way of thinking. If you truly believe that you deserve a fulfilling STEM career then you need to go after it. If you really want to make a big impact, then consider expanding your knowledge by returning to school to get your master’s degree. Possibly the best part about education these days is that you can get your degree online so you can learn new skills at night while working your entry-level STEM job during the day.
While many people struggle to find their dream job, most can at least talk to a mentor or an existing employee who can show them the ropes and help them along. However, the issue for women in STEM fields is that since there are fewer of them, it is harder to find that mentor that many need when they have questions or need help.
The solution to this issue is that if you don’t already know a mentor professionally, then you can meet someone new who can guide you along. One way to do so is to reach out to a college professor that you admired during your schooling and pick their brain for information and guidance. You could also search a website like LinkedIn for other women who work in STEM and ask them politely if you can meet up and discuss your future.
The other issue is that like many other fields, women in STEM often make less than men, sometimes up to 40% less, which is often due to the misconception that men are more qualified for the role. If you find yourself in this predicament, then you need to have the confidence to talk to your boss and express your concerns and if they don’t give you the respect you deserve then consider looking for a different position.
In the end, women do face challenges when trying to work in STEM fields, but with confidence and a desire to succeed, you can live your dream. If you want to learn more about becoming an engineer or a similar field, check out the Engineering Our Future blog here.