The gender issue in the fields of STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine, is already well known. While there are thousands of qualified women seeking careers in these sectors, they are finding it difficult to reach their goals.
What steps can be taken to help defeat the gender bias in STEM careers? Mary Jean Amon, a doctoral student in the University of Cincinnati’s psychology program, thinks she might have the answer. Amon recently gave a presentation at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C. and shared the results of a recent study that she conducted.
In the study, Amon states, “Gender stereotypes manifest in a variety of ways in a work environment, such as conflicting role expectations, a lack of authority and a variety of small, interpersonal cues that signal the potential bias against women. It is common for organizations to promote policies against blatant acts of discrimination and sexual harassment, but it is less common for them to recognize the unconscious acts of bias that frequently occur.”
In her study of 46 female graduates, looking for STEM careers, Amon found that there was one thing that helped these students achieve their goals and improve their overall outlook. Mentoring.
“I was surprised at the major role that social supports took in helping women persevere in these fields,” says Amon. “They were very sensitive to their mentor’s feedback. I think that’s true for the general population in research fields. However, when these women reported having lower confidence and higher perfectionism and their mentors were offering negative feedback or just weren’t around, these women felt like they took a major hit.
“On the other hand, even in the face of failure, if their mentor told them it was all OK, that would really smooth over their personal turmoil about pursuing their career,” says Amon.
Amon suggests that diversity training in STEM fields would also be beneficial to women seeking employment in these sectors.
This is an amazing opportunity for women already in STEM careers to give back – through mentoring young female students. If you are interested in supporting women in STEM careers, get in touch with your local learning institutions to see if they have a mentoring program set up.
Want to know more about exciting careers in the field of engineering? The experts at SoloPoint Solutions are here to help.