You Go Girl: How Women Can Help Women in STEM Careers
It’s been 25 years since Teen Talk Barbie proclaimed, “Math class is tough!” Since then, the US has created more jobs in the tech sector than any other — and the demand for workers and the industries’ commensurate salaries are inspiring a Millennial version of Rosie the Riveter (Patty the Programmer?) to roll up her sleeves and get to work in STEM careers.
That means Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, or fields that have classically been framed as “masculine.” Other gentler (and less lucrative) arts have been the domain for the female brain.
It’s not that women’s brains are wired differently. It’s that when it comes to what qualifies as “women’s work,” old attitudes die hard. But guess what: Sewing? That’s engineering. Cooking? Chemistry. Change the Thinking.
Women in STEM Careers Can Help the Next Generation of Girls
With greater in interest in STEM fields comes a need for strong female leadership from established professionals working in these industries.
From the perspective of a young student, just about any career can seem unachievable. Young women need positive framing and guidance.
It takes women working in these fields to come forward and educate kids, teens, and college students about the reality of the jobs that are possible for them to help them realize their potential.
“So much of it is logic and problem solving,” says Carrie D’Amour, a senior IT technical applications analyst with over 20 years in the field.
“The idea of the sciences being this cold, logical, clinical environment doesn’t reflect the fact that things like creativity, intuition – attributes traditionally associated with women – can have extraordinary value and provide advantages in the sciences. When you apply scientific methodology and principles using those more ineffable ‘feminine’ qualities, you may find yourself able to solve problems in ways that other people can’t.”
That’s not just talk. Tests and studies indicate women’s superior capabilities to recognize patterns might just make them better coders.
Support and Encouragement Make a Real Difference
A junior high school teacher told D’Amour that “women just aren’t good at science.” But she was not deterred. She embarked upon her career journey via programming books.
But now, online resources like lynda.com, Google for Education, Microsoft Virtual Academy and Raspberry Pi, mean anyone can try out the trades to see if analytical thinking clicks for them.
That doesn’t mean we can just leave it up to self-guided programs to lead more women in STEM careers, though. It’s critically important that we keep paying attention to organizations like Boston Business Women, where the idea of women helping women is the norm and collaboration in every industry is strongly encouraged and valued.
This is the kind of support and encouragement women need across the board if we want to advance as a whole — in traditional or non-traditional roles, whatever we choose.
In STEM careers, we know that there’s a lack of women applying to these positions. Organizations like TechGirlz and Girls Who Code strive to encourage girls to explore these career paths and ultimately close the gender gap in the field through education, mentorship and community building.
You Can Make a Difference in Your Community, No Matter What Field You're In
Mentorship and community make a difference, as we’ve seen time and time again right here in Boston.
Supporting, championing and sticking up for other women is key to keeping them satisfied and safe in male-dominated workplaces. “When I see a new woman in my workplace, I encourage her to keep learning, keep expanding her knowledge to increase her market value,” says D’Amour.
When it comes to success in any field, it’s a product of both education and encouragement from the right role models.