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SummerOfSTEM part 2: Your guide to unconventional STEM careers – Fiona Tatton, Womanthology Editor

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Fiona Tatton - Womanthology Founder and Editor
Fiona Tatton

#SummerOfSTEM part 2

Hello and to the second part of our #SummerOfSTEM round up season. We talked earlier in the year about myths in the gender equality space.

  • “Women just need to be more confident (i.e. more like men) and they’d get on just as well as men in the workplace”: MYTH.
  • “Women just need to learn to negotiate harder and they’d get paid as much as men in the workplace”: MYTH.
  • “Women can’t have careers and be mothers at the same time”: MYTH.

There’s hundreds of these irritating falsehoods in circulation. And that’s not all that’s holding women back. STEM is an area where there are huge misconceptions.

Now don’t get me wrong, research states that girls’ confidence in maths and science is affected by stereotype threat, so there is a confidence issue here, but there’s clearly more to it than girls just needing to ‘snap out of it’ and act more like boys. It’s about adjusting the system to promote a growth mindset for all over a fixed mindset for girls:

“I’m OK at maths but if I keep working hard I can get even better.”

“I’m stuck on this line of code but if I keep going I can find a solution.”

I love this quote from the astronomer Maria Mitchell, as it reminds us that science isn’t all about macho stereotypes.

“We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.”

Maybe we all need to look a little harder at STEM to find the beauty and poetry – men and women?

Huge need = lucrative opportunities

Statistics from the National Careers Service say that 70% of all UK businesses employ people with STEM skills and 40% of employers report they are finding it hard to recruit the people they need with skills in STEM subjects. So there’s clearly a huge need, which equates to lucrative career opportunities as shortage of supply drives up the salaries of skilled workers, male and female.

However, assumptions are that STEM related roles are boring, dirty and generally unrewarding. These are amongst the biggest myths of all. As tech, engineering and science permeate into every area of life there’s a myriad of opportunities across every sector. Think of something you love – anything – and most likely there will be a STEM role somewhere that relates to it.

Unconventional STEM careers

Love social media? I could quite happily spend days of my life on Twitter and Pinterest. What if you could make a career of your social media addiction as a social media engineer?

Love music? How about a career as a music data journalist?

Love skateboarding? Become a skate park engineer designing the ultimate skate destination.

Or one of my personal favourites – become a Mars rover driver. So you’d currently be testing the vehicle in simulated environments on Earth, but who knows, perhaps one day you’ll be on your way to Mars? (If you watched the Matt Damon film, The Martian, be sure to take lots of gaffer tape – it appears to get you out of almost any tight spot in space.)

So all in all, forget what you think you know about STEM. Whether you’re at school, college or uni, or you’re in another career already, if there is something you have a passion for, there is a lucrative STEM career somehow related to it. So whatever you love – music, clothes, sports, space travel, food, drink, cars, houses – anything, it’s made with a fantastic added ingredient: STEM skills.

*Be* the nerd

You might recall Mark Zuckerberg’s response to a Facebook user last year who wrote to him saying that she was encouraging her granddaughters to “date the nerd in school, he may turn out to be a Mark Zuckerberg!” Mark replied with the following: “Even better would be to encourage them to *be* the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!”

The geeks shall inherit the Earth, or so they say. STEM roles are challenging, rewarding, well paid and incredible fun if you join the right organisation.

STEM can help you choose your own bright future, a future which isn’t dependent on your gender – it’s for everyone. There’s no need to be conventional – just be yourself.

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