How Women in STEM Can Use Emotional Intelligence to Succeed

May 20, 2021

It’s no secret that women often struggle to succeed in STEM fields. 

Not only are women less likely to enter STEM fields, but once they enter, they face challenges that often wear them down and push them out. In fact, the Center for Talent Innovation found that 52% of highly qualified women working in these fields leave their jobs.

This happens because these male-dominated industries are often hostile and unwelcoming to female employees. This can cause women who would otherwise seek leadership roles to remain meek and timid, not speak up, and not lend their voices to discussions in the workplace.

Luckily, this trend is changing and there are more supports for women in STEM fields than ever before. 

By investing in developing your emotional intelligence, you can build your confidence, authority, and leadership skills in order to succeed. 

Use these strategies as your first steps:

Claim Credit for your Ideas

In STEM fields, ideas that spark innovation are what set exceptional colleagues apart from one another, yet 82% of women in STEM say their contributions are ignored.

According to reporting, women in these fields state that they are frequently talked-over, ignored, or even robbed of their ideas when a male colleague takes credit. Unfortunately, since women are often conditioned not to “rock the boat” they allow the incident to pass without comment.

However, women who are successful in STEM fields are more likely to speak up when they’ve been overlooked. If you’re unsure how to handle the situation, try this approach:

If someone repeats your idea as if it’s their own, reengage and say: “I’m glad you agree with the idea I shared earlier. Let me share some additional thoughts on the topic.”

Addressing that you presented the idea initially in a non confrontational way reduces conflict, and by adding additional thoughts you strengthen your own argument while allowing the conversation to move forward.

Be Your Authentic Self

Women often feel that the need to go above and beyond to fit in at work, but women who achieve success in STEM fields are more likely to be their true selves while at work.

In fact, 78% of successful women in STEM fields report that being authentic at work contributes to their success.

But how can you remain authentic to yourself while also navigating a male-dominated work environment? Here’s an example and a suggestion:

Let’s say that you manage an all-male team and you’re advised to take a “tougher” more masculine approach to managing them,

However, if being “tough” feels inauthentic, you can respond by emphasizing communication and teamwork instead of acting aggressively and creating situations where colleagues need to compete for your approval.

By “leaning into” a more authentic and collaborative model of leadership, you can build a reputation as a leader who builds healthy and supportive relationships with team members.

Learn how EQ can help you get ahead by ordering a copy of our book “Emotional Intelligence: Your Foundation for Success

Exude Confidence

Women in STEM fields struggle to feel confident — and with good reason: for decades women have been fed the narrative that they are less likely to succeed, and even that “innate” differences between men and women make them less suited for careers in STEM.

However, regardless of how we feel, the energy we present to the world plays a critical role in shaping how others perceive us and our abilities.

Some ways you can project confidence include:

  • Speaking highly of yourself and your abilities. Women often avoid this for fear of “bragging”, but in STEM fields it’s essential to give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved and what you’re capable of.

  • Standing tall. Your posture says a lot about you, and people who “fold” into themselves physically are often perceived as weaker and less confident. Make sure to sit straight up and keep your shoulders back by “rolling” them back into position.

  • Making eye contact when speaking. Looking into someone’s eyes when you’re engaged in a conversation naturally exudes confidence and makes you seem more self-assured.

Invest in Peer Networks

Building relationships with others increases trust, leading to buy-in and better results in the workplace. Investing in others helps them invest in you, in turn.

If you’re in a workplace with other women, invest in getting to know them and in developing trusting and supportive relationships. 

Not only does building these “lateral” networks ensure that you will get credit and support for your ideas in meetings, but these networks can also connect you to advancement opportunities, with half of all successful women in STEM reporting that their peers connected with to senior leaders.

Build Your Personal Brand

These days, it’s not enough to simply be “good” at your job. This is especially true for women in STEM fields who need to work extra-hard to stand out and be recognized.

Successful women in STEM nurture their personal brands by identifying their values and leaning into them in ways that differentiate them from other women in their field. When you understand your purpose, you can speak to it with authority and confidence. 

Some ways you can craft a personal brand include:

  • Speaking on panels
  • Sitting on boards
  • Publishing studies, papers and books
  • Attending conferences and networking events
  • Making your credentials and accomplishments known
  • Staying in touch with recruiters in order to stay relevant in your industry
  • Volunteering for leadership positions within employee resource groups or affinity groups

Succeeding As a Woman in STEM: Conclusion

As a woman in STEM, you have the ability to craft a rewarding and impactful career. However, in order to succeed in a male-dominated industry you must use your emotional intelligence to build your skills, make your presence known, and differentiate yourself as a competent, passionate, and driven professional.

To get started on your development journey, register for the next intake of our Leadership for Women program, which is designed specifically to support women just like you in an inclusive learning environment.

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