How Women in STEM Can Make Their Mark
Tech executive, career advice expert, and social influencer Sarah Saadatjoo answers your pressing questions.
You've probably heard that working in STEM industries (science, technology, engineering, and math) are great ways to secure your future. With data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting faster than average job growth for many of the career paths associated with STEM, there will no doubt be a demand for skilled workers. But not all workers are represented equally, specifically women in STEM.
STEM occupations can be generally classified into four occupational groups: computer, mathematical, engineering, and life/physical/social sciences. Most of all STEM roles fall into computer occupations.
While women make up the majority of social science workers and are about on par with men in math and life and physical science roles, women haven't made as big gains in engineering occupations and computer occupations. In fact, since the 1970s, the percentage of women working in STEM jobs has been increasing except for those in computer occupations, which declined from 1990 to 2019.
As many women contemplate returning to the workforce or consider a career change, and as recent college grads explore their options in the jobs market, Monster partnered with Sarah Saadatjoo, a tech executive, career advice expert, and social influencer, to talk about career opportunities for women in STEM.
As a woman in technology, Saadatjoo is an authority on the reality of breaking into this ever-expanding field. We asked her some of the most pressing questions about how women in STEM can advance their careers, tackle gender bias, gain skills, and find in-demand jobs.
How Can Women in STEM Get a Foot in the Door?
Saadatjoo: For women in STEM fields, one of the most important activities you can prioritize to set yourself apart from other candidates is building relationships and leveraging your network.
There's no denying that people are more likely to secure an interview if their application comes with an employee referral. But please don't send LinkedIn messages to strangers asking them to put in a good word for you! Instead, play the long game and build relationships over time with people at your dream companies so they can write a really great letter of recommendation for you when the time comes.
If you're interested in joining a tech company but don't have a tech background, I suggest considering customer service roles as a way to break in. These roles typically have the deepest understanding of the user experience and know the product inside and out, oftentimes better than the engineers who built it. The combination of this unique customer perspective and product knowledge is usually highly desirable across other internal departments, so there is plenty of opportunity for career growth.
How Can We Work to Overcome Gender Bias in STEM?
Saadatjoo: It would be impossible for me to sum up generations of tireless work toward gender equality, and while I can continue to push for a perfect world, I know we will always be challenged with bias in the workplace. That being said, there are two things everyone can do immediately to work toward a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in STEM.
1. Put more effort into recognizing and amplifying women's voices. This can be as simple as asking someone for their opinion in a meeting or as bold as speaking up when there aren't enough women represented in the room.
2. Actively encourage women in the workplace. That can mean emboldening them to go for a promotion, to ask for a raise, or celebrating an upcoming maternity leave. Modeling this behavior can have a compounding effect on the people around you.
Even the smallest of actions can move us toward overcoming gender bias, and it is within everyone's reach to make a difference.
What Are the Skills I Should Learn and Highlight on My Resume?
Saadatjoo: I always encourage people to speak with others in the roles they aspire to be in to learn about what skills are valued most in that field. Keep in mind companies value skills differently, so it's best to learn from someone who has the role you want and works at the company you admire. That's the best way to figure out not only which skills are most important to succeed in the role but also where you might need additional training or education.
Then when you apply, make sure to highlight the skills and experience you have that are most relevant to the role. The job description will give you plenty of information, but networking with someone in the company will help you "speak their language."
Think of your resume as your marketing brochure—a document that advertises the value you can bring to the position and the organization.
What Are the Hottest Tech Jobs Now?
Saadatjoo: From my vantage point, I see a strong rise in the need for cyber security professionals—such as engineers and architects—to protect companies from the growing rate of cyber attacks. This is especially true now that more people are working remotely. Unsecured personal devices, home Wi-Fi networks, and phishing attacks can pose serious threats for companies. It’s critical to bring in cyber security talent to make sure the company is capable of fending off attacks and preventing data breaches.
This has probably been on the hot list for a few years at this point, but I also don't see the need for data scientists slowing down anytime soon. The continued advancement of technology has brought about more data than we can even wrap our minds around. But more data doesn't always equal better. It's imperative that companies are able to effectively organize and interpret data in order to drive quality decision-making, which is why the need for data scientists will continue to grow.
Opportunities for Women in STEM
There's no doubt that STEM's not cooling off anytime soon. Looking to break into these industries? Create a free profile on Monster to get started. Recruiters search for Monster for top talent in a variety of industries every day. We can help connect you to the jobs of the future today.