Self-Advocacy for Women in STEM

Posted June 10, 2022 by in Career
women studying math

Women comprise only 29% of the STEM workforce and only 3% of the STEM industry CEOs. While this statistic is a bit shocking, it only shows how dire it is that more women join STEM programs.

Before doing so, it is essential that you learn how to self-advocate. Women in STEM will be the minority, and it isn’t always easy working in a man’s world.

Keep reading below to learn a few tips and tricks for self-advocacy in STEM fields.

Women's study group studying for a math test

Enroll in a STEM Program

To find success and empowerment in a STEM field, you must first enroll in a reputable STEM degree program. These programs will provide you with access to the latest technology and hands-on experience in your field.

You will also learn all the essential skills you must know to succeed in STEM. Critical thinking, problem-solving, and research analysis are just a few of the vital skills that will be sharpened in a STEM degree program.

Depending on what program you go into, you’ll gain more and more experience and newly sharpened skills as you continue with your program.

For example, conservation scientists will focus on learning how to effectively communicate and make critical decisions, while a cyber security degree will focus more on logical reasoning.

The more you learn throughout your program, the more confident you will be when you graduate and move on to your career path. Ask as many questions as you can, and get as much hands-on experience as you can.

Because this is a difficult field for women to be in, it’s essential that you start by knowing as much as possible. You’ll feel more confident self-advocating if you have a sturdy, unbreakable foundation in STEM.

Find a Mentor

It’s no secret that there aren’t many women in STEM fields. This makes it challenging for women to get ahead, especially if they don’t feel comfortable asking questions or speaking up.

Yet, STEM concepts can be complex, which means that the need for asking questions can be inevitable.

Finding a mentor is an excellent way to get your questions answered while also feeling supported in your particular role.

It would be best if you tried to find someone that you feel safe with, but also someone that you know you can learn from. Gaining hands-on experience from your mentor is a great way to feel more comfortable in the field.

Opening up to male and female colleagues could lead you to meet professionals in the STEM fields that could offer you mentorship.

Unfortunately, it will require you to push yourself, especially if you feel uncomfortable talking to male leaders. Right now, males make up most of the leadership positions, so it is inevitable that you will have to work with them to find success.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Clearly, if you are a woman in a STEM field, you’ll have to step way outside your comfort zone. Because there aren’t many women in the field, just being a woman in STEM will draw attention to you.

Don’t expect to be able to hide in the back and do the bare minimum work. Girls who code must speak up and make themselves heard to demonstrate what they have to offer.

There’s no denying the wage gap, and if there is any chance of changing that, women will have to prove themselves far more than any man ever had to. You will have to demonstrate your invaluable skills and show just what you have to offer any chance you get.

Take risks so you can change the game. Even if you fail, you will recover.

Challenge Your Inner Thoughts

Self-advocacy starts by challenging yourself. If you ever feel extreme self-doubt or have experienced imposter syndrome, you need to challenge these inner thoughts.

Everyone deserves to be a part of STEM. No one else is more deserving than you; not your boss, not your male colleagues, not your professors. You deserve to be here just as much as anyone.

Remember, you got your degree just like anyone else. You worked just as hard as everyone else. If you need help remembering how valuable you are, talk with your mentor or trusted friends and colleagues.

You have something to offer that no one else does, and the world needs it.

Assume You Can Always Negotiate

Many women in the workforce, but especially in STEM fields, take whatever is offered to them. This is because they are treated as if they should be grateful to be there at all.

Yet, you should actually treat everything like it is negotiable because it is. Don’t take the first offer if you don’t feel like it’s enough.

Ask for more on every front because you deserve it. This could mean promotions, responsibilities, titles, or mandates. Get used to the idea that you can and should always negotiate for more.

Join a Professional STEM Organization

Joining STEM programs for girls can give you that extra support you might need throughout your career. They offer ongoing learning, career development, advocacy, and research opportunities.

Many organizations offer a multitude of benefits as well, such as job listings, internship openings, the latest STEM research, and networking opportunities.

Woman doing math homework

Self-Advocacy Is Essential for Women in STEM

When it comes to women in STEM, there is only one clear answer: we need more of them. While it will be a challenging road, it shouldn’t ever discourage you from pursuing such a career.

You will find that it will be fulfilling as you find a job that you love, and you will gain more support from other females in the field than you can imagine.

Use these tips to self-advocate, and you’ll be just fine.

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