Research has proven that most women who have successfully navigated to the top in a patriarchal dominated system have suffered an endless struggle with confidence no matter how intellectually sound they might be. In S.T.E.M (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), women’s confidence has long been under assault from implications and overt insults that women are less likely to succeed, and even suggestions that “innate” differences between men and women make women less suited for S.T.E.M careers. Could this account for the reason why fewer than 2 in 10 women in S.T.E.M who have achieved success, have a report of being extremely confident in their abilities?
For any level of success to be attained in life, the role of confidence as a key ingredient cannot be overemphasized. Since confidence has been discovered as the best weapon every woman in STEM must be armed with, it is of great importance to note the following 7 confidence-boosters for women in S.T.E.M.
- The use of Female Mentors and Coaches: A wise saying goes that those who seek the path to success have found it easily by standing on the shoulders of people who have had countless success stories in their lives. The presence of successful female mentors and Coaches in S.T.E.M will help upcoming women in the field pattern their careers with ease. Female mentors ignite the aspiration to pursue S.T.E.M related careers since they protect issues related to women to boost their confidence. Geraldine Richmond, the Presidential Chair in Science and Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oregon realizing the importance of women in S.T.E.M, plays a great role in mentoring women in Science. She co-founded the Committee on the Advancement of Women in Chemistry, through this program she helps to facilitate growth through professional development and networking events held each year for women scientists and engineers around the country. Making available mentorship programs and female mentors can go a long way to motivate the upcoming women in S.T.E.M and also give them the opportunity to mentor others. In order to support mentorship, it is necessary that young women are exposed to more female professors teaching STEM-based classes as this would encourage them to not give up and would give them someone to go to for advice and mentorship.
- Placing Women in Leadership Positions of S.T.E.M Organizations: Established women in STEM should not be relegated to the background when leadership roles are being assigned in S.T.E.M organizations. A current report states that women only hold 24% of S.T.E.M related positions though earning potential is much higher in those roles. Delegating leadership positions and responsibilities to women do not only boost their confidence but gives them the opportunity to embrace their full potentials. Lack of women in leadership positions in S.T.E.M related organizations impedes on the entire confidence of women in S.T.E.M. To balance and improve scientific creativity and innovations in the world, the gender gap in leadership, in science-related fields must be adequately filled by women with outstanding leadership qualities, who are can serve as capable hands in those fields.
- Building Systems on how they can manage both the home and their jobs: It is true that time spent on a particular art, determines the level of confidence developed at it. Every career woman has always sought for possible means by which she can remain top notch in her job and home but each of these demand time. In order for a woman in S.T.E.M to maximize her ability to be innovative, creative and relevant in the already existing patriarchal system; processes must be put in place to cater for the highly demanding aspect of her life, which is the home. For women in S.T.E.M, mechanisms like long maternity leaves should be considered as one of their rewards. Also, flexible working hours should be made available for women with dependent kids as this will provide the ease in managing their homes as well as grant them the desired satisfaction in their career.
- Creating Job Opportunities for Women in S.T.E.M: Supporting women who have nursed dreams to belong to S.T.E.M related organizations by creating jobs that accommodate women in S.T.E.M will go a long way to boost the confidence of these women. Young female graduates will be encouraged to go into science related fields when they are assured of good job opportunities after their study. Government and S.T.E.M related organizations should carve out pathways that lead for more women jobs in S.T.E.M. The inferior complex experienced by women in S.T.E.M could get widened if the gender gap of employment opportunities in S.T.E.M related jobs is not breached. Closing the gender gap in the S.T.E.M field can help connect millions of young women to high-quality jobs thereby giving women an opportunity to create a strong economy in the field of Science and technology.
- Celebrating the Success Stories of Women in S.T.E.M: Nothing boosts confidence more than the reward for an achievement. The women in S.T.E.M must be seen amongst the population that solves today’s real-life problems for a better tomorrow. Celebrating the successful inventions and innovations of women in S.T.E.M can help them keep their shoulders high as well as eliminate the feeling of inferiority complex which may come with belonging to a male-dominated organization, thereby, giving them the assurance that they are seen, heard and recognized by the world’s majority. Highlighting the successful inventions of women in STEM is a great way to place these women in the spotlight, which will, in turn, reproduce superb confidence in them as well as inspire the upcoming generation of women in STEM. Celebrating the success stories of women in S.T.E.M will afford these women the opportunity to reflect on their experiences and offer their advice to other women who look up to them as role models and mentors. Both government and private S.T.E.M organizations must take up the responsibility of celebrating these women who have given themselves to support the scientific development of the nation.
- Promote Unionism for women in S.T.E.M: Organizations and Unions should be set up for these women in S.T.E.M. These organizations will be able to cater for the financial needs of the women in S.T.E.M and also serve as a meeting point for all the women in S.T.E.M.
- The Creation of Private Sponsorship Programs: Sponsorship programs funded by S.T.E.M organizations should be organized to hold scholarships for female students studying S.T.E.M related courses in tertiary institutions. The awarding of these scholarships will encourage, enhance the chance of the female population to venture into S.T.E.M related practices and fields. It will also establish a cordial relationship amongst the various S.T.E.M companies and S.T.E.M academic institutions.
If we are going to have more women in S.T.E.M, then the female population represented in S.T.E.M organizations have to be showcased and placed at the center stage as icons to be reckoned with, and this may only be made possible if the above confidence boosters for women in S.T.E.M is applied or put in place. The present women in S.T.E.M have become pacesetters and pathfinders for the upcoming generation of women who have conceived within, the desire to change tides in Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
By Splendor Eloke- Young