Girl Power: Women Make Up Too Small a Percentage of #STEM Professionals

My advice to other women pursuing careers in STEM fields would be to have courage. If this is your dream, go for it. Any organizations worth their salt value strong leaders and professionals who are experts in their fields, no matter their gender.

Science, technology, engineering and math. These four fields make up what is commonly known as STEM. Growing up in Bangladesh, it was my ambition to pursue a career within this umbrella. While I ultimately followed a math and science education track, my parents had encouraged me to follow an English and literature path instead, for one simple reason—I was female.

Many young women, myself included, have felt societal pressure to choose our fields based on what is stereotypically considered acceptable female professions. Although women make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, they continue to be underrepresented in STEM professions. For instance, women represent only 29 percent of the science and engineering workforce and only 24 percent of information technology (IT) positions.

A recent study further revealed that women in general management and professional positions at payment tech companies is actually on the decline. Women fill 47 percent of those positions in 2016, compared to 53 percent in 2000. Additionally, only 1.4 percent of top-level positions at payment tech organizations are filled by women. 

Increasing female representation in STEM roles can start at the organizational level. This might entail any of the following strategies:

  • Developing inclusive recruiting practices – When used in job descriptions, some words have a tendency to stop women from applying. These problematic words may include “ninja,” “foosball” or even the relatively standard phrase “competitive salary.” Screening for these words may help battle unconscious biases in the hiring process.
  • Including female interviewers in hiring processesResearch has shown that women may be more likely to turn down job offers if they were only interviewed by men. By having even one female staff member involved in the interview process, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to equal employment opportunities. 
  • Offering mentorship opportunities – Pairing junior-level female employees with their more senior counterparts helps these up-and-coming professionals build their networks. Additionally, it provides a support system of women as young female employees look to advance their careers.