Hi Skylar! This is an interesting question to think about. It is awesome to hear that you are interested in pursuing a STEM career and I highly encourage you to do so. It is a great field to be in!
I am new to the workplace after graduating this past May. Within my company there is a lot of passion for creating equality between men and women in the workplace. There is a growing number of female leaders in technical areas of the business. My company also has an employee resource group specifically aimed at advocating women in the workplace. It is a really encouraging sight to see.
I am sure this is not the case for every company so I think that will be a good question to bring up again when you start looking for prospective jobs. In job interviews, bring this up and start this conversation with potential employees to get a better understanding of how they are working to level the playing field. Even though there is still some work to do, I think the workplace has come a long way in advocating for women in STEM and I would not be discouraged from pursuing your dreams.
Hi Skylar-- I will echo Jennifer's comment as it applies to higher education. At the university where I work, there is a large focus on increasing women's representation and success in STEM fields through scholarships and programs that are specifically geared toward female students. I think many universities offer similar types of things. This is not to say that biases don't exist, but I do think that these types of resources help to create a more welcoming culture and even the playing field. As you consider majors, I would recommend looking into whether the department offers any type of support for female students and perhaps even try to meet with current female students in that major to get their perspective as well. Good luck!
Skyler - I’m so happy you asked this question! I work in high tech and am often the only woman in the room. I also lead an employee resource group at my company that connects women so we don’t feel alone.
To answer your question, yes there is sexism in STEM. But also know, there is sexism in non-STEM too. So please, please, please stay in STEM. We need you more than ever and never, ever under estimate the value you bring to the table.
Having diversity in STEM is a business imperative - look at this McKinsey study of women in STEM (https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/closing-the-tech-gender-gap-through-philanthropy-and-corporate-social-responsibility) Evidence based research has shown a public company’s stock price goes up with females leading. YOU ARE THE GAME CHANGER!
So what do you do when you get there:
First, find your Wolfpack or Girl Gang. These are the people who support you no matter what. They also give you straight talk to keep you focused. They give honest feedback and you do the same to make each other better. Look for them. You will recognize each other.
Second, find your male supporters. These are the guys that sit in meetings and will say “what do you think Skylar?” They’ll support you by repeating your idea/point AND give you credit for it. He'll sound something like this... "I like what Skylar said about...(insert your idea here)". They’ll often clear the floor and hand you the mic.
Third, find your female mentor or sponsor. This gal is at a higher level than you. She’s seasoned and has journeyed through the jungle with a machete. Don't just ask "will you be my mentor". Set up meetings with her, have lunch with her, ask her for advice. Ask her to connect you with others, but also give something back. Share what your working on. Then help her make connections if you can. Get crazy and teach one of your hobbies if she's interested.
Last, Be. Fearless. Speak up in meetings, speak up when you have an idea, concern, question. 9x's out of 10 others are wondering the same thing. People will notice your fearlessness.
Skylar, those of us in STEM are waiting for you. We have shoulders fo you to stand on. Join us.
Be bold and carry on.
Jennifer recommends the following next steps: