Strategies to go from merely surviving to THRIVING for women in STEM
I’m the youngest of three, and there’s a 9- and 12-year gap between my brothers and me. Being the youngest was hard at time, by time I started school my brothers were in high school. Everyone knew my younger brother was brilliant. That was the role he played in the family – “the smart kid”.
Frankly elementary school bored me so everyday when mom asked how my day was I talked about friends, recess, and everything but what I was learning. I got decent grades, but nothing spectacular. During this time, I got labeled the dumb kid. I believed it through high school and into college.
I fully realize, now, that this is clearly not the case. Am I on the same level as my one brother? Nope and that’s totally okay with me. Most everyone who knows me will say I’m very smart and they like that about me.
The interesting thing about this label is that as I started my career, and was the youngest on my team, I doubted whether I was smart enough or knew...
Today is one of those days where I’m dragging my feet, looking for reasons I won’t be available later, or any other reason to skip out on a professional virtual networking event. Crazy right? I signed up to attend the event, it’s with a group that I value, and I want to make connections in my new city. So why am I hesitating? It turns out that getting back into networking is harder than I expected, and I’ve always been challenged by it.
Now I have a choice to either give into my nerves or get past them. It’s really tempting to avoid it; really, really tempting. I’m not feeling 100%, my voice has been rough due to allergies for days. How easy would it be to say, not going to do it today, I’ll make the next one? And yet, I really want to start making more connections, getting to know people in my new area so why not go? It’s virtual, easy enough to do and could be fun.
I’ve had these kinds of moments many times over my career,...
I was working a split shift, noon – 8:30 pm, as the factory was ramping up a 2nd shift in one of the departments I supported. One day as I sat down at the beginning of my day to check emails Matt came in and said I was needed in out in department 91. So, I jumped on the scooter with him and he gave me a quick run down of what was happening, but he didn’t have time to give me all the details.
We went in to see the supervisor, Brian, and I started asking some questions to find out what was going on since I was 2 hours late to the party. Brian was furious with everything and jumped down my throat. It turns out my boss spent about 30 minutes asking similar questions to prove Brian didn’t know what he was talking about. Even though I was coming from a totally different place, he heard the same challenges to his experiences. Not true at all, but it was his perception.
I got what I could out of him, did what could be done and then left with Matt. I was in tears as we rode...
I had just transferred to a new factory and was taking on some new responsibilities. I was a bit anxious since I only had a limited familiarity of these areas. I hoped I could make it work without too many issues. Fortunately, the main responsibility for the role was the same as what I had left, with some differences due to facility specific requirements.
Then I was told I would be the team lead for the big system modification project. I was new to the factory, had the least seniority in the company, and was at the lowest paygrade. It seemed crazy to put me in charge of a project that had huge implications to the factory. To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the century.
Now I had to learn how to handle several new processes and manage a major project. I was constantly worried about screwing something up. Fortunately, I knew several of my new co-workers and they introduced me to the right people to help get it all figured out.
On the project, I was familiar with the...
Back in early February it was suggested to me that I could do a weekly Zoom call on career growth to better connect with the people I serve. It was a great idea, I have all the tools needed, I’m comfortable on video, I have lots of topics, and I’d been doing something similar on Facebook for 6 months. So why not? I was excited about a new way to increase my reach and impact. Awesome!
Yet, when it came time to make it happen I found one reason after another to stall, delay, or otherwise procrastinate. My inner critic had come up with about 1,000 reasons why this would never work. She reminded me of these repeatedly every time I would set a target date to launch. So, March became May which became June. I was letting that nasty inner critic keep me from moving forward.
Once I got control of the critic I was able to move forward with confidence. It took some real work to change my dialog. Doing something new was scary and so that doubt crept back in. I started tuning into...
It’s the nature of humans to encounter those who feel they need to criticize, condemn, or complain about others. These are known as haters and critics, a special breed who seem to thrive on putting others down. Sadly, it seems like for women in STEM these folks are all too common.
I’d love to say that at some point this will end, but it won’t. The key to staying excited about your career it to learn to handle them without destroying your self-esteem. This is hard, and well worth the effort.
To get started pay attention to your thoughts and feelings around the situation. If you are finding yourself stressed, angry, and demoralized it’s time to get to work on gaining control again of your responses. Here three steps that will help you get started.
As a woman in STEM it’s important to learn to be assertive when appropriate. It will help you build confidence, credibility, and respect for your expertise. It is also an effective tool to deal with bullies and co-worker conflict. Being able to stand up for yourself in a way that is calm, respectful, and positive helps you assert your rights while respecting the rights of others. It creates an equal balance of power.
The benefits of assertiveness have been proven and documented. Mastering assertiveness will benefit you by providing:
The key to becoming assertive is creating a focus on your rights and needs while respecting the rights and needs of others. The concept is that it’s possible for both sides of an...
As the end of the year approaches many of us stop and reflect on the year, what did we achieve, what goals were met, where we fell short, and what did we fail to get done. At work this comes in the form of performance reviews, those dreaded annual events where we must tell our boss all our failures, our successes and hope we are seen for the good we did. There is a better way.
First, it is important to evaluate our performance, it tells us where we need to improve and what gains we’ve made. It can also tell us what changes need to be made to be better in the future. The key is in how you frame this evaluation process. Avoid thinking good/bad, right/wrong, black/white, success/failure and instead look at what went well and what you can do differently to be more successful.
I believe all of us are more excited to celebrate our successes than we are to dive into what didn’t go well. That’s a normal and...
As 2020 crawls to an end I keep hearing people say, “How could you not wear a mask/ go to a big gathering/ travel to someplace/ or vote for him”. An already ugly year has sunk even deeper for most of us as the US election grinds towards a conclusion. Fatigue has set in; tensions are high, and tempers are flaring.
Friends are attacking a friend because her state voted a way they oppose. Kind, mild manner people are snapping at co-workers. Friendships are ending due to differing political perspectives. Bridges are being burned between family members, friends and colleagues. It’s disheartening to most of us. We want to get back to a time where family and/or friends could meet up for dinner and drinks, have interesting conversations and connect on a personal level. A dose of normalcy would be welcome right now.
Sadly, the pandemic isn’t ending this week, the election results are taking time to get sorted out, and yet life must go on. How do we find peace during...
Well we’ve reached the end of October in a year that dove into uncharted waters early and hasn’t found its way back to dry land yet. What is often a fun filled time for kids to get out in costume and collect tons of candy from friends and neighbors is now more fraught with worry. Do we go out, is it a drive-by trick or trunk, will any kids come by, and how will people be acting?
The world is a frightening place with all the unease and discord that exists in the world right now. People are stressed, worried, and tired. It seems like every where we turn there is a new problem, another argument or more discouraging news. How do we find any fun again?
It’s important to remember that even when things are difficult it’s okay to have a little fun, find a moment of joy in the smile of a child or in the changing colors of the season. While the world is a hard, troubling place right now, there are moments that are fun and should be cherished for the light they bring.