In the last few months, I have been working for Columbia University on a research project on the topic women negotiating in STEM. The study hopes to learn about the negotiation strategies that women in male-dominated fields use to stay competitive and explore how these strategies are impacting the progress of women in these fields.
Women in STEM experience similar challenges that women in other industries face. The typical culprit barriers include:
- Lack of advancement
- Low salary
- Lack of professional development opportunities
- Lack of mentors or role models
- Inflexible work schedules not making it conducive for family building or pursuing personal endeavors
However, the heavily male-dominated environments where STEM industries operate make it even less friendly to women. Women in these professions quit or leave because of hostile male culture, isolation or workplace pressures. Women are treated as less competent and earn less for the same position. Women also reported for being passed over for a job or promotion because of their gender.
Discrimination is more frequent and sexual harassment continues to be a concern. The situation is more grim for women minorities where discrimination is more common than other fields.
STEM is already experiencing a pipeline issue. Due to these unique challenges that are unique to women in STEM, retention in the science, tech, engineering, and math labor workforce is now a pressing issue. And since these fields already begin with a smaller pool of qualified candidates to begin with, there are also fewer women recruits available in the workforce to replace these vacant positions.
My personal hope for this research is that we will not only shed light on the deeper issues STEM fields are facing, but also provide some practical solutions on how we can better increase and improve women participation, representation and leadership in STEM.
More on this in the coming months.