Seven strategies to crush your self-doubt and take the driver’s seat in your STEM career
Imagine after working hard and excelling in school, you finally get your dream engineering role or you find your passion in fintech and cybersecurity and you have great motivation to apply your knowledge to solving global challenges.
It’s Monday morning and you are surrounded by male colleagues. A stakeholder enters the room but instead of acknowledging your contribution, he undermines you and does not take you seriously. He isn’t used to seeing many women in your field and this is your turn to attempt to present your big idea. Suddenly, the self-confidence you thought you had starts to disappear and your impostor syndrome takes over.
In this moment you can either take a back seat and let fear and doubt take over or you can take the steering wheel of you career in STEM and be your own driving force. These feelings are common and we have all been there at some point in our career however this phenomena happens more frequently in areas such as technology, engineering, mathematics due to the underrepresentation of women in these areas.
The numbers speak clearly – less than 30% of the workforce in STEM fields are women, and in engineering alone, around 205 women hold degrees with the average in the actual engineering workforce being 115. The talent pipeline is broken and if we were to fix this and reach gender parity in labour markets, global GDP would grow by an additional 26% by 2025. In only six years we could globally impact positive growth. Despite these areas growing in demand, the number of women present in these industries is stagnating.
In fintech alone, only 8% of fintech directors worldwide are female. Fintech companies report that a significant challenge to increasing their profitability is the lack of diversity in both their leadership teams and workforce. We need more women in finance, banking, insurance and regulation to design a better landscape for all in this field and begin to prepare this industry for the 4th Industrial Revolution.
There are many things corporations can implement and society can do to help, but there are also strategies women can implement to take control of their careers and begin to face day-to-day challenges head on:
1. Self-awareness and intuition
Take an honest look at both your strengths and weaknesses. We are often programmed to work on the second, our weaknesses, but it is vital that we build on the first. More often we excel in the things we have strength and passion.
2. Be pragmatic in your thinking
Ask yourself this one question: Does this thought move me forward or does it get me stuck? Only you know the answer and if the answer is the second option, do not dwell on this and focus on things that move you forward.
3. Remind yourself of your value
When faced with adversity it is easy to lose sense of the value you bring to the field and the expertise you have accumulated. In this situation, remind yourself you deserve to be there and your knowledge and ideas bring immense value – over and over if necessary.
4. Reach out to your ‘friend’s voice’
Consider what you would tell a friend who’s nervously facing the challenge you are presented with. Be as kind to yourself as you would to a friend in need – practice self-care and encouragement. Your inner voice can, and should, be a friendly supportive one instead the more inner critic voice that can sabotage your success if you let this get too loud.
5. Anchor thoughts
An anchor thought is an empowering and reaffirming word or sentence you think of, and use, as a quick fix when your are doubting your abilities and self-doubt is taking over. Use these throughout the day to remind you of your worth and why you are there and you will feel more encouraged and secure in your role.
6. Use your five-second window
Our brain’s default mode is to keep us comfortable and safe however growth doesn’t happen in comfort zones. When attempting to grow your STEM career, you’ll face doubt and hesitation. From the moment you have an impulse to take action, your window to make it happen is about five seconds, do not let hesitation hold you back. Go, speak up, raise your hand, stand up, send that email, make the phone call – do whatever it is that will expand your career and that pushes you outside your comfort zone. 5,4,3,2,1. Go.
7. Seek feedback
Getting critical feedback from someone who really wants you to succeed is invaluable. The supporters that provide you with constructive criticism are the best people to surround yourself with are these are people you can trust to be honest.
Strive for your idea of excellence and ditch perfectionism. The first expands possibilities and focuses on what you want whilst pushing for “perfect” paralyses growth.
This isn’t about fixing women in STEM. This is about recognising that often society makes girls and women doubt of their capabilities and as a result, they think they don’t belong in fields like mathematics, engineering or tech. That is far from the truth, and it is key women recognise they hold much more power than they think they do.
By Gabriela Mueller Mendoza
Gabriela Mueller Mendoza is an energetic, empowering coach and professional speaker.
Prior to becoming an executive coach, she was an IT consultant for 12 years in the corporate world, working for some of the largest blue-chips companies.
Her work reaches over 80 countries, helps thousands of women in tech giants, engineering corporations, academia and NGOs. She is the author of How To Be A Smart Woman In STEM which seeks to empower all women in STEM with the tools for success.