The Truth About Women And STEM

stem

None of my closest friends are going into the STEM fields. Not a single one. Instead, we are all pursuing things like advertising, women’s studies, theater, and music. Honestly, I’m pretty torn about how that makes me feel.

This subject came to mind earlier today as I was reading an article about high paying, low stress jobs. The Occupational Information Network came out with a list of jobs in which the professionals were experiencing below average stress levels. When you look through the list, you’ll find that most of the higher paying jobs that also come with low stress are in STEM.

After reading this, I thought about my career of choice, advertising, and my general temperament. I kind of enjoy stress. I like being busy and dipping my hands in multiple projects at once. I like it when no two days of the week are the same, and pulling an all-nighter to work on a creative project is a guilty pleasure. Most of my female friends operate in the same mindset.

Our choices to go into non-STEM fields that will likely result in working way past 5 pm on the regular does not seem like a coincidence. As young girls, we grew up being told that building things was for boys and communicating/socializing was for girls. As we grew older, we were told that computer club was for boys and chorus was for girls. It’s no wonder that our choices in college majors panned out the way they did. Chances are, at some point the all-nighters will get old. We’ll tire of pumping our bodies with caffeine and working on weekends for a less than 6 figure salary. We might even grow to envy some of our male friends who are clocking out at a reasonable hour in silicon valley.

Part of me feels disappointed that none of my female friends chose STEM careers because it reminds me that we are part of a depressing statistic. All of my friends are feminists, and we spend plenty of time lamenting the lack of women in engineering or math, but none of us are changing that picture ourselves. On the one hand, I feel hypocritical, but on the other hand, I’m studying what I love — and I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Does that mean that one day, I’ll be making less than my male friends from college and also be twice as stressed? Maybe.

Of course, women who are going into the STEM field face a whole other set of challenges. A career as a computer hardware engineer may be lucrative and low-stress overall, but women in the field can face less welcoming environments that lead to anxiety, depression, and general frustration. Many women in STEM careers report experiencing a micro-aggression, receiving negative reactions from peers and family members for choosing a traditionally masculine field, or feeling excluded by the culture in their workplace. Surely this is not true for every woman in STEM, but it seems to be a common thread among many of the young women I have spoken to who are currently pursuing a degree in these fields.

As a young woman who isn’t pursuing a degree in STEM, I feel all I can do is learn from the awesome women who are . This is why I carefully follow women like Anne-Marie Imafidon, founder of the Stemettes.  I love the degree I’ve chosen and I don’t intend on changing my career path, but I also feel it is my duty to think critically about why I chose a career in a rapidly feminizing field. I also feel it is my duty to make sure my children know that they can choose any field they want — and hopefully not feel any guilt related to their choice whether it’s in STEM or something else. I know what I’m getting into by choosing a career in advertising. It means I’m not going to get offered a 65k per year job right out of college and it means I’m going to experience a little more stress. Right now, I wouldn’t change it for the world — but I also might start learning how to code, simply for the sake of exploration.

 

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When Do You Know If You’ve Found Your Dream Job

dream job

“Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” — Confucius

People often talk about the fact that millennials are a generation of job-switchers. We are supposedly always looking for something better to do and we prefer to live in the moment rather than set a long-term career goal.

In real life, when I talk to my friends, most of us seem to have a general plan of what we want to do. When I talk to my older peers (who also had a plan at my age) a lot of them  graduated and realized they wanted to do something else. So what’s the deal with this disconnect that converts us into wanderers, and how do we figure out where we belong?

And millennials aren’t the only ones. The generations before us are more likely to have a long-term stable career, but still, most of the adults I’ve known have switched careers once if not multiple times.

As I begin my first internship in the field of my choice, it’s hard not to worry. It’s only been a couple of weeks so far, but I can’t help but wonder if I’ll return home at the end of the summer with some new idea of what I want to do.

People are always telling you to do whatever makes you happy, but it’s impossible to try every single thing. Just like choosing a life partner or picking your forever-home, you have to eventually settle on something and cross your fingers– or jump from place to place.

People also like to tell you that your dream job probably involves whatever you like to do outside the office. For example, if you spend all your spare time baking extravagant cakes for your friends, maybe you shouldn’t be working in an office at all. Of course, if you spend almost all your time at work and you don’t nurture some post-work hobbies, you’ll never get a chance at finding your passion. So, my first thought is: If you think you’re in your dream job, but you don’t have time for anything but work, something is probably wrong. Even the greatest of jobs should leave you with a little bit of downtime for the sake of work-life balance. No dream job should keep you from spending time with your family or having a life that involves other things. If you do have a job that leaves you with some downtime, but going to work every day feels like a huge chore, that job isn’t the one either.

Second, I think you should take a look at what you do at work all day. Think about your daily or weekly schedule and decide which tasks and activities are your favorites or least favorites. If you spend the majority of your time completing the less enjoyable tasks, you might want to start brainstorming job ideas in which you can mainly complete the tasks you like. You might even find that there’s a position more suited to your personality within the company you already work for.

Next, you should consider what attracted you to your current career path. Maybe you thought this career would be exciting, or mentally challenging, or creative. Then, assess whether or not you were correct! A lot of careers (especially the ones held by characters in movies, shows, and books) are heavily romanticized. You may find that the things that attracted you to a job didn’t hold true. If so, you might want to go to some networking events and try to meet people in other careers that have the traits you’re looking for. If your career has most of the attributes you were seeking, you can still network and learn about other opportunities, but you’ve most likely hit your jackpot already.

Of course, some people believe that dream jobs don’t exist. And who knows, maybe they’re right. No matter how great some jobs seem, you almost always have to work through a few less enjoyable, entry-level positions to get there. Then, by the time you reach your goal, you might be sick of the whole career path and want to do something else. Maybe your dream job is the type of thing that doesn’t lead to much money — but you’re the type of person who wants to live a more affluent lifestyle. To be honest, I’m still not really sure if dream jobs are a real thing or most people just haven’t figured out how to find what they’re looking for.

For now, my goal is to simply keep my eyes open. Maybe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be and maybe I’m not. All I can do is remind myself to assess whether I’m happy, make sure all my soul’s needs are met, and hold no prejudices about what a job, company, or career could be like.