The gender disparity in most STEM professions is a very real problem. Fortunately, there are opportunities out there for women and, as a woman interested in the STEM fields, you have the power to challenge those stereotypes and make a way for yourself in ways that you might never have imagined before. Are you ready to embark on your journey? Here are a few suggestions to get you started.
1. Grow Your Coding Skills
Coding is a popular skill that is needed in a variety of STEM professions. Not only is it helpful for getting your foot in the door with that first job, it can help improve your analytical skills and put you in a position to more efficiently improve other skills in the future. At codeacademy.com, you can improve your coding skills for free: the only thing you’ll need to invest is your time and energy.
2. Join a STEM-Related Club
Chances are, your high school has a wide range of clubs and organizations available. Talk with your guidance counselor or your teachers to learn more about what options are available at your school and, if those options aren’t available at your school, what opportunities you might be able to find in your local community. Good options to consider include:
- Robotics clubs
- Gaming clubs, especially clubs where you create your own games
- Coding clubs
- Strategy and tactics clubs
If there aren’t options available in your area, consider starting your own STEM-based club or organization. With a teacher to sponsor you and a little backing from the administration, you could use your high school years to create something that’s never been done at your school before. Not only will it be a great way to gain some STEM experience, the fact that you founded and built your own club will look fantastic on your college applications.
3. Talk With Your Teachers
Who are your favorite teachers? Whether it’s a teacher in a class you’re taking right now or a teacher you’ve worked with in the past, be sure to share your interest in STEM-related fields with them. Often, those teachers will have connections and information that you don’t have, from scholarship opportunities to clubs and organizations. When they know you’re interested, they can provide nominations and information about upcoming events, or send you to competitions in your field. Spread the word about your interests to as many teachers as possible—even the ones you aren’t close with. Often, those teachers can help open doors you wouldn’t have been able to open on your own.
4. Look for Scholarship Opportunities
As interest in STEM programs continue to grow, so will the associated scholarship opportunities that are available to prospective college students. The Aysen Tunca Memorial Scholarship, the Virginia Heinlein Memorial Scholarship and the Science Systems and Applications, Inc. (SSAI) Academic Scholarship are a few great options that can help you pay for college. There are a lot of amazing scholarship opportunities out there, and your teachers and guidance counselors can help find out how to earn them.
5. Seek Out Internships
Consider your specific area of interest, then go looking for internships in your field. Your teachers may be able to help connect you with specific organizations in your area that accept applicants for internships, or you may need to do some research on your own. Internships are a great way to start building your experience before you even get started in college. Even if you mostly sort mail and deliver coffee, you’ll have an amazing chance to get closer to the industry that interests you most, observe what employees in that field actually do every day, and maybe even participate in projects that will help grow your understanding of your field.
6. Look for Summer Programs
During the summer, many communities or organizations offer programs that are designed to help increase interest in STEM professions. What programs are available in your area? You may want to participate in a program designed for high school students, or you might want to volunteer for a program designed for younger children. You may even get a paid position as a summer camp counselor or other worker. Once again, your teachers may be the best source of information for your specific geographic area.
Many STEM-related organizations, museums, and businesses need volunteers to help keep things running smoothly. Taking a volunteer position won’t just make your college application look a little better. You’ll also have a chance to make connections within your field—often with people who will remember you later, when you’re ready to start looking for a job.
8. Find a Mentor
Don’t forget about the female professionals who are already active in your field, many of whom have overcome serious obstacles in pursuit of their passion. Reach out to some of these amazing women! There’s a good chance one or more of them will be eager to help you reach your goals and follow your dreams. A mentor can help you talk through the challenges you’re facing, make better choices, and come up with solutions to your problems. Sometimes, they can even open the door to future career opportunities. With the guidance and encouragement of a female mentor, you’ll be able to navigate your academic and professional future with confidence.
As a woman diving into a STEM profession, you’re already well aware of the potential challenges that await you. With these strategies, however, you can build a better understanding of your chosen profession, get your foot in the door, and increase your odds of future employment while learning more about the fields that interest you most. What are you waiting for? Whether you want to start building your STEM skills or are just looking for a way to get involved, now’s the time to get out there and start working toward your dream career.