Happy International Women’s Day!
Although women are underrepresented throughout the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by strong, inspirational women throughout my schooling and career. I’m extremely thankful for the impact each one has made on me, so there’s no better way to start Tech Unheard than with a shout out to you all: the women of STEM.
While women make up 50% of college degree holders, we are only 29% of the science and engineering workforce, but I’m sure that’s no surprise. Despite the gender gap, we still continue to make tons of great contributions to our fields every day. The problem is pretty clear, so let’s talk about solutions. Here are my two cents based on my experience:
- Inspire – Get girls interested in STEM early
- Make it fun: Coding day camps and engineering dolls like those from Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, and Goldie Blox are great examples. We need more efforts like these that are accessible to everyone
- Require programming: In addition to foreign languages, everyone should be required to take programming classes in middle and high school.
- Empower – Provide resources for women that work in or study STEM
- Match mentors and mentees: Mentors are your own personal cheerleader, and they can help you progress further in your career. A mentor in your industry or company can provide helpful inside tips.
- Free courses: At my last internship, I was able to take free courses in person and online where I could brush up on skills that I might have forgotten or learn new topics entirely. This was awesome because continuous learning is vital!
- Impact – Representation
- Show us that there are women breaking ceilings all around us. Give us more Meredith Greys and Hidden Figures, and make them the norm. Let our voices be heard and our faces be seen so that little girls all around are inspired to do even greater things.
Anyone in the industry has probably felt like they didn’t belong or discouraged at some point. If you’ve already chosen to pursue a career in STEM or even if you’re still deciding, here are some tips from a few particularly inspiring and successful women who have been in your shoes:
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to have confidence in yourself. You don’t have to know everything before you start, or be the first or the best in a class; you just have to be thoughtful and persistent.
–Dr. Kathleen Maloney
President and COO of Compass Technology
Never let anyone, even yourself, undermine your skill set! Do not be scared off by people who say ‘It’s so difficult’ or ‘You don’t seem like the type of person to study this.’ You know yourself and you are capable of so many things! Give it all you’ve got and you may just discover something you truly enjoy.
– Tariro Kandemiri,
Computer Science student and co-founder of Sewanee Eats
While it may not be the most obvious choice, I think it is important to have self-assurance in your own knowledge and capabilities and to not fall into a ‘victim’ mindset that all your contributions are relevant only in the context of being a woman. In essence, what I mean is don’t think you were hired or chosen because you’re a woman. Be assured that fact that you were because you are good at what you do and your contributions are valued. That way you don’t fall prey to the insecurity and meekness that women are sometimes associated with. Also, even if you do face prejudices you change the mindset of those around you with your work ethic. Make the gender thing a non-issue and focus on what you bring to your field.
– Anneke Augenbroe, Undergraduate Researcher at Georgia Tech
Stay dedicated to your path and
don’t be influenced by
pressures to choose an
easier or more ‘socially female’ field.
– Kelli Brotman, Pre-Medicine Student at Kennesaw State
Don’t be scared of trying things that are foreign to you or that other people say are hard or challenging – no one woke up one day knowing how to code a website or build an engine. Anything can be learned if you put the right amount of energy into it.
– Mirna Nath, Solution Engineer Intern at Salesforce
What questions do you have for women in the industry?