6 Key Traits Women in STEM Possess

By: Kathryn Rainville

What happens once women are in the workplace? Harvard Business Review recently published 6 key tenants that successful women in STEM have in common. They are:

  1. Telegraph confidence

A recent study cited in the article states “…that fewer than 2 in 10 women in STEM who have not achieved success report being extremely confident in their abilities,” even if they are perfectly capable and excel in their field. This confidence is everything for women in STEM, and of those who have achieved success, “…39% report such confidence” (Sherbin)

2.  Claim credit for your ideas

We hear it all the time, but based on a study cited in this article, “…82% of women in STEM say their contributions are ignored” (Sherbin). However, women who are successful in STEM boast a 14% higher likelihood of speaking up upon being overlooked. Dr. Velma Deleveaux shares her method of reclaiming her own ideas, in which she confronts the person who attempts to claim her idea and says “I’m so glad you agree with the idea I introduced earlier. Let me share some additional thoughts.” It’s important to stand up for yourself and your ideas, and this is one easy way to do it

3.  Invest in peer networks

Depending on the person, networking events aren’t always the most enjoyable. However, they are one of the top commonalities successful women in STEM have. As Sherbin writes, “…building relationships with others increase buy-in and results. In our research, we find that successful women invest deeply in peer networks.” Perhaps more shocking is the research showing that successful women in STEM “…are more likely to have peers who back their ideas in meetings than other women in STEM” (Sherbin). So, the next time you think about skipping that networking event, or even a happy hour where you can get to know others, don’t. Build the relationships that will help you grow, that will help connect you to leaders in your organization, and that will create a strong reputation.

4.  Build up protégés

As Sheryl Sandberg expounds on in Lean In, mentorship is a key to most people’s success, but particularly women. Taking on a mentor and being a mentee prove to be mutually beneficial as recent studies have shown. The protégé benefits from the advocation of their mentor, and their critiquing, while the mentor garners a reputation as a leader who “groom[s] great talent” (Sherbin).

5.  Be authentic

Being yourself is difficult at times. It requires some sense of vulnerability that many are just not willing to display in the workplace. However, “…78% of successful STEM women said they are their authentic selves at work, compared to 58% of other women in STEM” (Sherbin). Very often, women are told to act tougher, or “be more like a man,” but, deviating from your true self makes you fake, and makes you less strong. Focus on your strengths and be real.

6.  Hone your brand

Several studies show that women often go above and beyond the call of duty. This plays into their personal brand. In fact, Sherbin cites that “successful women in STEM take a number of steps to nurture their personal brands, often more so than other women in STEM.” Volunteering at corporate events, sitting on boards, and making sure those they work with know their accomplishments. They foster their connections, and stay relevant, regardless of whether they are hunting for a new opportunity.

Ultimately, it is most important to find what works for you and carve your own path to success. These tips should serve merely as guides to you constructing your own future. Follow in the actions that have made others successful, don’t reinvent the wheel. Whenever you’re feeling stuck, revisit these tips and tricks, and try a new angle so that you, too, can be one of those successful women in STEM.



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