How Women in STEM Can Use Emotional Intelligence to Become Resilient Leaders

March 17, 2020

Women in STEM fields face unique challenges compared to other industries. From lower pay and lack of mentorship, to motherhood, being stereotyped, to having competencies questioned due to gender, women in these fields need to be hardy and resilient.

This is especially true of women who hope to become leaders in their fields. 

Women represent approximately 50% of all bachelor degrees in science and engineering, yet the proportion declines with higher education: only 44% of women earn Master’s degrees and 41% earn PhDs. Representation continues to fall in the workplace, particularly for management positions.  For example in tech, only 15% of women are CEOs.  

While these numbers may seem discouraging, they could be considered as opportunities for strong, resilient women to lead the way by enhancing their emotional intelligence and strengthening their hardiness and resilience.

Emotional Intelligence in STEM

Emotional intelligence (EI) isn’t about not experiencing our emotions; it’s about learning to understand, harness, and control them so we can function in healthier ways.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman breaks down EI into five core components:

1. Self-awareness: the ability to recognize and understand our moods and intentions, and how they affect others.

2. Self-regulation: the ability to control our moods and impulses, and “think before we react.”

3. Intrinsic motivation: being motivated towards our goals for personal reasons, instead of being reward-driven.

4. Empathy: the ability to recognize and understand other people’s motivations.

5. Social skills: the ability to manage and build networks and relationships. 

Developing this skill set is an asset for women, particularly in STEM fields where they are more likely to face barriers to inclusion, pay, and advancement.

Additionally, developing Emotional Intelligence doesn’t just help women in these roles overcome barriers in the workplace, but also plays a key role in strengthening hardiness and resilience, which are essential skills for women in STEM fields. 

Using Emotional Intelligence to Build Resilience 

Resilience is the ability to adapt and to bounce back from setbacks and is strongly related to our hardiness. For women workplaces that are often less gender diverse, resiliency can play a key role in advancement, leadership, and success.

There are a variety of behaviours and thought processes we can implement to strengthen these abilities, which include:

Don’t Internalize Setbacks

In competitive fields like STEM it can be easy to dismiss successes and focus on setbacks and failures. 

While it may be tempting to think of a setback or mistake as a character flaw or an indicator that you’re not fit for the job, this is faulty logic.  Rather, reframe these situations as learning experiences understanding that everyone makes mistakes. Make a list of what you would do differently next time, and work to apply your findings to your next set of challenges.

Develop a Growth Mindset

It can be hard to hear critical feedback and not take it personally, but reframing difficult conversations helps to turn them into opportunities for growth and reflection.

Learning to identify when you have an emotional reaction to feedback from a peer or a boss helps to understand why you’re feeling that way, and what you can do to avoid those feelings in the future.

This doesn’t mean you should dismiss warranted and fair constructive criticism, but instead to “step away” from how you feel in the moment and use the experience as a chance to reflect and learn.

More resilient leadership in STEM fields begins with YOU. Click here to get started.
Seek Diversity of Opinion

Being a woman working in a field or workplace that lacks diversity can feel isolating, so it’s important to seek our resources and support if you need it.

If you can’t (or aren’t comfortable) discussing challenges with the women at work, talk to friends and seek out groups for professionals in your industry. Conferences, workshops, and training sessions can be a great way to build your skills while meeting other women in your field. 

Find and Be a Mentor

If you’re new to your STEM career, seek out and find women in leadership roles and ask them to mentor you. Formalizing this relationship will help you identify what you want to achieve in your career, and will help you start on a path to success that is supportive and inclusive.

If you’re already in a leadership position or are hoping to find yourself in one soon, take time to mentor the women on your workplace team. It’s important for women of all ages, job titles, and skill sets to feel supported, and it’s up to us to create those environments.

Women in STEM: Start Building Your ResilienceWe help women in STEM fields build their professional skills and become adaptable and strong leaders. Get in touch with us today to arrange for your Hardiness Resilience Gauge (HRG) report or become certified to deliver the Hardiness Resilience Gauge and encourage resilience in your workplace.

We’re also presenting at a FREE webinar focused on “Women in Leadership” on March 25, 2020 in association with MultihealthSystems (MHS) and Click here to register!