Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
Most STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) fields are dominated by men. That makes these fields an excellent career choice for women!
STEM Careers Just Right for Many Women
Men outnumber women in most STEM careers. For example, just 17 percent of chemical engineers and 22 percent of environmental scientists are women. But that doesn't mean it's hard for women to get jobs in those fields. In fact, many companies want to hire and keep qualified women for STEM jobs.
There are challenges, but help is out there. If you're a woman considering a STEM field, don't be put off by some of the challenges you may face.
Challenge 1: Shortage of mentors for women in STEM fields.
Women tend to have a harder time finding female mentors in STEM occupations. A more experienced employee can show you the ropes and promote your accomplishments. This is important for anyone in any career. It is especially important for women in STEM, because they are often less likely than their male coworkers to promote themselves.
Solution 1: If you can't find a mentor in your organization, join a professional association.
Many associations, like the Association for Women in Science, the Society of Women Engineers, and the Association for Women in Mathematics. have networking and mentoring opportunities (both online and in person).
Challenge 2: Lack of acceptance from coworkers and supervisors.
If you work in a STEM field, you might work mainly or exclusively with men. You may find it difficult to be accepted as part of the group. There's legal help if you face sexual harassment or discrimination in hiring and pay. It's not always easy to know what to do about subtle or unintentional exclusion.
Solution 2: Work for a company with female-friendly policies and programs.
Many companies understand that it's profitable to keep their talented female employees happy. They make special efforts to recruit women. They move them into leadership positions and offer flexible work or mentoring programs. Take time to research potential employers. Find out if they understand and want to reduce the challenges for women working in male-dominated occupations.
Challenge 3: Coping with gender differences in the workplace.
Let's face it: men and women have different interaction styles. This plays itself out at work. If you're a woman working mostly with men, your daily reality will be different than if you were in a female-dominated workplace.
Solution 3: Educate yourself.
Read up on gender differences in communication. Learn what to expect by talking to women in STEM fields who can share insights. Don't wait to be asked before offering an opinion. Learn how to handle mistakes, blame, and guilt in a male-dominated workplace. Learn the art of saying no to unreasonable requests.
Not All STEM Fields Dominated By Men
Many STEM fields have an even mix of men and women. Others have more women than men. For example:
- Database administrators are 37 percent women.
- Biological scientists are 46 percent women.
- Accountants and auditors are 60 percent women.
- Clinical laboratory technologists are 78 percent women.
- Registered nurses are 91 percent women.