Women are often pushed out of STEM mid-career — here’s how we fix it

Women are often pushed out of STEM mid-career — here’s how we fix it
Credit: IEEE.org

Reports continue to show that mid to senior career women leave technology fields in high numbers.  They often leave not only their job, their career, but also the entire industry. Many factors, including lack of career growth, lack of recognition and poor management are often topics high on the list.  From bias and culture within an organization, many organizations are initiating changes, but these can take time. However, these studies have also shown that there are many things that we can do to support the goal of sustaining women in technology.

Getting data

First, we need to get the data to see how we can help. In a recent survey on Women’s Experiences in Technology conducted by the IEEE, over 4,500 women responded. The results can be found online here and is well worth a read on the topic.

The detailed findings of the survey outline some of the discouraging experiences and perceptions within the industry.  However, the survey goes on to provide concrete suggestions from the respondents on how the issues that women face might be addressed.  These include raising awareness of the status quo of women in the workplace and highlighting top performers to raise their visibility within their organization.

Recognition

The fact that women work hard and excel in their fields is rarely in question. History has shown time and again that women are not recognized for the work they do.  Many women are so busy that they refer to extra work required as the STEM tax, and they are unable to do the things that they could be recognized for. Continuing to recognize women’s work by supporting them through awards, participation in panels, technical papers and patent support are key elements to keeping women in technology.  It not only highlights the individual and their work, but also shows other women entering the field the role models of the industry.

Professional organizations

Joining professional organizations, such as IEEE, has shown to be effective in sustaining women in engineering.  These organizations can change the way one views their career, by allowing one to network, learn from, and participate in activities at a global level. By working with professional organizations, participants can make a difference not only in their own careers but also those of engineers around the world. Global communities are important for participation in today’s fast-paced, multi-faceted and technology-rich world.

Non-profits

By joining a non-profit, an individual can learn leadership skills that may not be available to them in the corporate world.  For most, this is working at an executive level by participating in the roadmaps and strategic decisions of the non-profit. Working with non-profits can allow any individual to add executive level skills to their portfolio, especially if they would not be achieved by working within one company.

Mentoring

Women in the technology industry’s careers can be further enriched through mentoring and networking programs. Mentoring provides a platform for professional success and personal growth by engaging with others for different approaches, collaboration and sounding boards for input on changes. They can provide the career advice and constructive criticism on a personal level to help them advance and succeed.

Looking forward

Looking forward, the young professionals are poised to make a difference in women’s sustainability.  Their resilience to changing jobs show they are more likely to leave jobs rather than endure years of inequity.  By both working to sustain the current workforce and inspiring the upcoming generation, the future looks bright.

This year marks the 6th annual IEEE Women in Engineering, International Leadership Conference (IEEE WIE ILC).  At the WIE ILC, to be held in Austin on May 23-24th, it continues to inspire and engage women technologists from all over the world, especially those mid to senior career women. Overall, women in technology have come so far in establishing their importance and receiving recognition in technology fields. However, there is still more progress to be made.

To further support the women technologist, IEEE WIE ILC conference has brought together attendees from over 43 countries, with 89% professional attendees with more than 5-10 years’ experience.   Through workshops, keynotes, breakout sessions and industry partners, WIE ILC creates communities that fuel innovation, facilitate knowledge sharing and provide support.

This story is republished from TechTalks, the blog that explores how technology is solving problems… and creating new ones. Like them on Facebook here and follow them on Twitter.


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