Girls and women have traditionally been tracked away from science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) throughout their education, limiting their access, preparation and opportunities to go into these fields as adults.
Currently, women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM, and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college. The gender gaps are particularly high in some of the fastest-growing and highest-paid jobs of the future, like computer science and engineering.
Why is this STEM gap persistent?
- Gender stereotypes: STEM fields are often viewed as masculine, and teachers and parents often underestimate girls’ mathematics abilities starting as early as preschool.
- Male-dominated cultures: Because fewer women study and work in STEM, these fields tend to perpetuate inflexible, exclusionary, male-dominated cultures that are not supportive of or attractive to women and minorities.
- Seemingly fewer role models: Girls have fewer role models to inspire their interest in these fields, as they too see limited examples of female scientists and engineers in books, media and popular culture.
- Confidence gap: Women, especially those in academia, are afraid of stepping out of their comfort zones to try out jobs in the workforce. This stems largely from the fact that they deem themselves unfavourable to the economy with the lack of practical skills and experience that their peers – often men – might have over them.
SThree partnered with Women in Science Singapore in hopes to build awareness
In partnership with Women in Science Singapore, our Managing Director, Alena Salakhova as well as our Medical Affairs expert and Senior Consultant, Kay Dhupar, spoke at their webinar to kick-off ‘Overcoming the Gender Gap in STEM for the future of our Tomorrow’, hosted by Co-founder of Women in Science Singapore, Vandana Ramachandran.
The session covered Alena and Kay’s career journey on how they found their place in STEM and recruitment, their personal family stories, tips for women looking to move from academia to industry, and within industry, to steps we can all take moving forward to bridge the gender gap in STEM.
Top tips to move from academia to industry include:
There is no better time than now to move into the pharmaceutical, biotech and life sciences industry when it is at its peak in market value and prospects. Triggered by the pandemic, the endemic phase we are all currently in will drive greater innovation, higher performances and bigger impact to the lives of future generations ahead. You can make the impact with your market domain knowledge and niche skills – all it takes is having confidence and motivation.
Kay shared, “In the last 10 months being here at SThree and Real Life Sciences, I myself have moved from fashion to medical affairs. Think about how much easier it’d be for you in academia, possessing the very market knowledge that is needed in the industry. At the end of the day, it’s really about the mentality, coaching, sharing of best practices, and being open to create room for improvement. It is crucial to keep in touch with recruiters to learn how you can adapt your skills to job roles in the industry.”
Your checklist to get started:
- CV writing skills
- Interview skills
- Building your brand on LinkedIn
Kay added, “I’ve seen a lot of talent out there who will spam their CVs to whatever job they see available in the market. Sometimes it is not about that. You need to know how to translate your knowledge on your CV and tailor it to the requirements of the role.”
For example, if a cell biologist is vying for a job at a biotech firm or drugmaker that specialises in cancer treatments, the job seeker should show how their background fits with the target company’s drug or molecular pipeline in their application.
In another perspective, Alena also pointed out that one must be smart and tactful when sending in your CVs because at times, it is not always your CV that gets you the interview. “To be honest, after being in the recruitment industry for 15 years, recruiters and hiring managers receive hundreds of CVs in a day per job posting. We are human and it is innately impossible to run through every single CV. The reality is that at times, the best CV may not get the interview because of the timing, and the worst CV might get the interview because of other factors.”
As such, other factors that were mentioned was being proactive to network because it helps one to be in touch with people and let those in the industry know that you exist in the market. This ties in nicely with the need to build your brand on LinkedIn as we are all in the digital age and making a good first impression online is key. Stay engaged by sharing news, being part of communities, and commenting on posts because all of this builds your credibility.
Bonus tip is to get in touch with a recruiter. Alena pointed out, “All of us have our insurance brokers and lawyers and we don’t question their expertise to represent us. Applying the same logic, you should have a recruiter to “sell” your profile because it’s not just your CV that would help you.”
Common concern: If I leave my academia role, how would my professor feel about it?
Kay identified a common concern amongst her candidates in academia that stemmed from the fear that their interest to move out of academia would cause a misunderstanding with their professor. The advice to take note is to be mindful that any decision you choose to make will impact you and your growth. Kay shared, “If you heart and mind says this is something you want to do, you have to go for it. Know your worth, you are better than you think you are.”
Benefits for being in the industry include:
- Acquire domain knowledge — Kay mentioned, “We might go on maternity and focus on family or take a hiatus for other reasons. Whether you are from the industry, or within academia, keep on reading and updating yourselves with current industry knowledge. Upskill your expertise and build your value. Always learn more. Always be curious. Always be hungry.”
- Be agile — Alena pointed out, “Women tend to be scared change, but adaptability is important. Step out of your comfort zone and it will be your biggest learning and growth.”
More effort is needed to narrow the gender gap in STEM
In summary, Alena pointed out that there is work that needs to be done to break stereotypes and norms both on an individual level, and community level. Promoting more success stories is also needed. She shared, “We take one single woman and promote a success story — if just one woman who listens to that story feel impacted, inspired and motivated to take a step forward, that in itself is going to be a win. We need to do this step by step.”
Vandana also highlighted that whilst governmental support can be improved, there is a conscious effort and initiatives already ongoing to support gender equity in STEM, from education institutes like NTU, SMU and NUS adopting a gender diversity plan, to non-profit charitable organisations like ‘SG Her Empowerment (SHE)’ who is paving the way.
We can help you with your diversity hiring
SThree Singapore is proud to uphold diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) in our hiring practices both internally as one team growing together, as well as with partnering organisations when we guide them in evaluating their talent strategies.
Every small step counts which is why we’re proud to say that we’ve increased our placements of women in STEM from 26% in 2018 to 43% in 2022. Types of jobs in Singapore that we have filled the gender gap include top jobs in demand such as Automation Engineers, Software Engineers, Manufacturing Engineers, to Regulatory Affairs Managers, Quality Directors and even Data Scientists.
Reach out to us today if you require support in your hiring practices. Please click on the respective brand button below according to your specialisation. Huxley specialises in Banking, Financial Services and Technology recruitment whilst Real Life Sciences specialises in Life Sciences and Healthcare recruitment.Huxley
*Huxley and Real Life Sciences are part of the larger SThree group
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