The gender imbalance in traditional science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) professions is still alive in 2017. Even though there have been significant efforts in attracting women to STEM fields, the desired result has not been realized. And this leads to shortfalls in the workforce.
Women are participating in some STEM careers. For example, certain science and healthcare professions are dominated by women, but the gap in other fields is essentially as apparent as it ever was. In some cases, pipeline issues are being cited as the source, but there is more to this issue than simple interest.
Women, Leadership, and STEM
Women working in STEM fields express a similar level of interest in reaching leadership positions as men. However, women aren’t as likely to focus on leadership as a primary career goal.
A potential reason for the slow rise of female leaders in STEM fields could be the lack of women in leadership positions today. Women have fewer role models currently working in these positions, so finding guidance they can relate to is inherently more difficult.
Additionally, the perception of what it takes to be a successful leader is often based on those currently in those positions. And a lack of diversity in key roles makes it harder for individuals to determine whether they have what it takes to succeed.
Often, certain priorities regarding career management are seen as “women’s issues.” This specifically pertains to the concept of work/life balance. While many see work/life balance as pertaining to family obligations, that isn’t always the case. In fact, those looking to further their education may crave work/life balance to make attending classes and working full time a more manageable goal. Others may have volunteer opportunities they want to pursue or even recreational interests.
Additionally, work/life balance is often cited by men and women as a top priority, suggesting that the implied gender divide on the issue doesn’t actually exist.
The benefits of diversity in the workplace are well-known. The lack of women in STEM leadership positions, especially in tech-intensive operations, means that a company doesn't realize the full benefit of having a diverse workforce. So how should a business work to create a more balanced workplace? By offering the right kind of support.
Mentoring at the executive level is highly common, but many choose to mentor someone who reminds them of themselves. Often, that leads male executives to choose other male employees. While forcing a mentoring relationship might not be realistic, encourage executives of every background to mentor promising female students and colleagues to help them prepare for leadership roles. Additionally, encourage women in the workplace to seek opportunities to work with a mentor openly in the workplace.
With unemployment low in technical positions and the potential workforce shortages as the baby boomer generation retires, not having diversity in the workplace may lead to an even more difficult situation for tech companies in the future.
If you are looking for more information about women and STEM careers or are looking for a new employee to join your team, the professionals at The Armada Group are available to assist. Contact us and let us put our expertise to work for you.