Background: Some female leaders have managed to build highly successful careers with degrees in STEM disciplines. How did they do it? What can other Emerging Women Leaders learn?
A new research study from CTI uncovers six differentiators of success for women in STEM. Those differentiators are, in fact, strategies that all women in STEM could employ to achieve success, regardless of how supportive — or hostile — their company cultures may be.
- telegraphing confidence.
- being bold and ensuring that they’re not overlooked; leveraging their network;
- building up protégés by sponsoring someone at their company;
- remaining authentic; and
- honing a personal brand.
Note : this article is my take-away from the HBR article: 6 Things Successful Women in STEM Have in Common by Laura Sherbin
Definition of Success : Satisfaction with your job, respect for your expertise, and a senior-level position.
Problem Statement : In prior research, we at the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI) found that women leave STEM fields in droves: 52% of highly qualified women working for science, technology, or engineering companies leave their jobs. Yet many other women have managed to build highly successful careers with degrees in STEM disciplines. How did they do it? A new research study at CTI uncovers, through a nationally representative survey of 3,212 individuals with STEM credentials, and through dozens of additional interviews and focus group conversations, the differentiators of success for women in STEM.
FIVE strategies help women in STEM achieve success, regardless of company culture :
- Claim credit for your ideas. In STEM fields, the ideas that spark innovation are currency, markers of exceptional colleagues. Yet 82% of women in STEM say their contributions are ignored.
But we find that successful women in STEM are more likely to speak up when they’re overlooked. In response to the most recent time their contributions were ignored, 40% of them confronted the situation, compared to only 26% of other women in STEM. These confrontations can be quick and tactful.
For example, Dr. Velma Deleveaux, a director at Booz Allen Hamilton, leads a Science and Engineering business. If someone repeats her idea after she’s already shared it as if it were their own, she reengages and says, “I’m so glad you agree with the idea I introduced earlier. Let me share some additional thoughts.” This way, Deleveaux reclaims credit for the idea, demonstrates her ability to advance it, and continues to move the conversation forward.
2. Invest in peer networks. Networking can sometimes seem uncomfortable or transactional, especially to those of us who aren’t naturally extroverted In our research, we find that successful women invest deeply in peer networks. Not only do successful women in STEM build lateral networks that ensure they get credit and backing for their ideas in meetings, their networks also deliver access to the corridors of power. Half of successful women in STEM say peers connected them to senior leaders (compared with 36% of other women).
3. Build up protégés. A majority of successful women in STEM report sponsoring someone at their companies (only 37% of other women in STEM do the same). Many successful STEM women have discovered that sponsoring others helps them build their own reputations as leaders who groom great talent — and can also help them keep their own skills current and sharp.
4. Be authentic. Many think it’s necessary to bend over backwards to fit in at work, but a woman who’s achieved success in STEM is more likely to bring her authentic self to work, even if she must tweak a bit for the workplace. A striking 78% of successful STEM women said they are their authentic selves at work, compared to 58% of other women in STEM.
For example, Rosa Ramos-Kwok, managing director of Bank of America’s Consumer and Shared Services Operations Technology, shared with us that her leadership style is to listen to the concerns of people she’s supervising before working with them to help formulate her vision for an organization.
Prior to joining Bank of America, she was placed in charge of an all-male team, and a colleague suggested she act tougher. Ramos-Kwok resisted that advice. Instead, she emphasized communication and teamwork, working with her new direct reports to work together to solve problems rather than compete for her approval. Sticking with her authentic, collaborative leadership style paid off: Ramos-Kwok won over the team and developed a reputation as an exceptional leader, leading to further management opportunities.
5. Hone your brand. Successful women in STEM tend to go beyond their job title or description. Successful women in STEM take a number of steps to nurture their personal brands, often more so than other women in STEM. They speak on panels, sit on boards, and make their credentials or accomplishments known. They meet with external contacts or stay in touch with recruiters and headhunters in order to stay relevant in their industry. They volunteer for leadership positions within an Employee Resource Group (ERG) or affinity group, and attend conferences and networking events. They are also open about parts of their personal lives that connect them to others at the company.
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