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STEM is for everyone: 3 ways to “change the equation” of equality in the workplace

December 05, 2018

By Megan Lisbon

This year’s S.H.E. Summit offered a wide perspective on how we can cooperate across genders to build rewarding careers

While it feels as though improved equality for women in the workplace is gaining traction, we’re far from breaking through the glass ceiling. Corporate Board appointments for women are on this rise, but women still hold only 22 percent of board seats on Fortune 500 companies.

It is often said that women working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) fields have felt disparity more acutely than other industries. That’s the perception I took to this year’s S.H.E. Summit in New York City, which aimed to “celebrate and accelerate inclusive equality by connecting, educating, and activating talent in the global workplace.”

Women@Stantec is an employee resource group that works to empower women across the company.

It became apparent to me during these two days of empowering talks that the challenges women and minorities face in the STEM fields is not that different than the challenges women and minorities face in the workplace in general. A wide variety of panelists—from companies such as Audi and Deloitte—have implemented great practices and policies to increase equality in their firms, similar to those practices and policies Stantec has implemented. But there is still room for improvement. 

At the end of the summit, it was clear to me that there were several things that we can all be doing to “change the equation” of equality in the workplace. Here’s a look at three of them.

1. Women (and men) need to champion women

Studies show that women are not as good as men at praising themselves. Women should find a “brag buddy” who will sing their praises and brag on their behalf in professional settings. While in meetings where only a few women are present, be sure to repeat, and give credit to, women whose opinions or input may have been talked over. The best way to have women rise to leadership positions in a male-dominant workforce is to provide support and champion them.

By working together—and across gender lines—we can make a career in STEM as rewarding as possible for our young professionals.

2. Leave the notion that you are not good enough at the door

A popular statistic has shown that men will apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications. Women need to have less of a “perfectionist” mentality when it comes to whether we are ready to take on a new professional role. The best way to rise to a new position is to take on a challenge before you think you are ready.

Reshma Saujani, CEO of “Girls Who Code,” said “failure doesn’t break you, it makes you stronger.” The best way to learn and succeed in a new role is to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes. Women need to begin to build the confidence to take risks professionally and leave the notion that they are not good enough for a new role at the door.

Women@Stantec events, like speed mentoring and TED Talk-style presentations, aim to give our young professionals support and inspiration. Here, Isabelle Jodoin is joined by Susan E. Hartman and Marie-Lucie Morin, members of the Stantec Board of Directors.

3. Sponsorship = talent stewardship

While some of us are good about finding and knowing professional mentors, we are generally not as good about finding professional sponsors. A mentor is someone who will speak to you and provide advice or guidance to grow your career while a sponsor will talk about you to managers, supervisors, and leadership. If you don’t think anyone is sponsoring your professional development, grab a cup of coffee with one of the leaders in your office and discuss sponsorship. If you are in a leadership position, take it upon yourself to sponsor a knowing (or unknowing) young professional that has a different background that yours. Everyone should have someone in the company besides themselves to help foster their career growth.

It takes hard work and commitment

These lessons should become part of any company’s narrative, and these habits need to be introduced at an early stage.

As a young engineer, I was first introduced to Stantec in the fall of 2013 when my college senior design project was sponsored by Stantec’s New York City office

From the beginning of my career at Stantec, I have been given (and gratefully taken) the opportunity to try to make an impact on the representation of women in our industry. I can confidently say that working with our transportation business leader Susan Walter I have learned that many of the obstacles women may face in the STEM fields can be overcome and surpassed. But it takes hard work, and it takes commitment.

Through Women@Stantec, an Employee Resource Group aimed at empowering women, we have organized to make that a reality for all our professionals. At the Women@Stantec New York chapter, we have taken on that challenge through events like “Speed Mentoring,” a “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” fundraiser and walk, and various TED Talk presentations on issues focused on women in the workplace.

By working together—and across gender lines—we can make a career in STEM as rewarding as possible for our young professionals.

  • Megan Lisbon

    Megan is a senior structural engineer and project manager focused on improving how the New York City subway operates. Her expertise? All aspects of transit station projects.

    Contact Megan
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