How can women get into and succeed in the STEM industry?

Every year International Women’s Day is held on March 8th, a day where we celebrate women’s achievements and champion inclusivity.

While we think this day should be celebrated every day of the year, it gives us the perfect opportunity to encourage and inspire future generations to pursue their dream career.

We at Empatica are very proud that 54% of our team is made up of women, however this is not the case across all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) occupations. Recent results show that women account for only 28% of the STEM workforce in the USA.

For those considering a career in STEM, you may have questions about how to get into the industry and how to succeed in it.

Here we share some tips you may want to consider, and words of wisdom from some of our female leaders at Empatica, Professor Rosalind Picard, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist, and Marisa Cruz, Chief Medical Officer.

1. Identify key female role models

Having role models can inspire you to become part of the STEM industry and support your progression when you’re in it.

As well as having female figures you admire, you may want to consider how a role model can help you practically. One route could be to find a mentor.

A mentor can help you discover new opportunities, provide you with useful insights and share their own personal experience in the industry. It is also beneficial for the mentor too and extremely rewarding!

“Don’t be shy to ask for mentorship, and be open to new opportunities! Getting exposure to different types of STEM careers and learning from people in fields that interest you are fantastic ways to clarify what aspects of a career path are most important to you.”

- Marisa Cruz

2. Understand the qualifications you’ll need

Ensure your CV is up-to-date and consider how you can tailor your CV to appeal to the industry. Studying STEM subjects is beneficial, but there are also soft skills you should ensure you have too, such as problem solving.

Consider work experience in the field you are interested in, so you can expand your skill sets on your CV, demonstrating your passion for the industry, and learn more about which roles interest you most.

Research universities, degree subjects, and even look at job openings at companies within the sector you're interested in to understand the requirements and candidate background they are looking for.

Don’t be put off a career in STEM if a traditional Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics role isn’t for you. There are plenty of other roles within the industry!

“Often people think you have to be great at math or science or computer programming to do a STEM career. While that’s really helpful, there are also places in STEM for designers and people who really understand people and can communicate their insights well, whether or not they can do math and program.

In particular, when creating technology that gives users a great experience, the field needs people who can storyboard or prototype a better user experience, detecting subtle nuances that can make interaction with technology much better than it is today.”

- Rosalind Picard

Remember that a decision you make now doesn't need to define your career path forever. Remain open to new opportunities that will challenge you and help you expand your knowledge.

“It’s important to emphasize that career paths are often not perfectly linear, and that the initial choices you make about your educational major or training do not need to define an entire career arc.

Remaining flexible and curious, particularly in rapidly evolving fields of technology and medicine, will significantly improve your chances of landing on a career path that you find to be personally meaningful and rewarding.”

- Marisa Cruz

3. Research resources

There is a wide range of resources available to support women looking to get started in STEM, and communities you can get involved in too.

“MedtechWomen and WELL are two groups for women in digital health that I participate in, and I have consistently found people to be very open about their experiences and career journeys.”

- Marisa Cruz

Networking is a great way to meet new people and to build relationships with those in the industry. Networking can expose you to potential opportunities that could help you forge your career in STEM and learn new skills along the way.

“Reach out to people you know and share what you can do and what you’re looking for, even if you’re an introvert.

Networking leads to better jobs. Even if your first job is as a volunteer or apprentice, get experience on things that interest you and work to earn a great reference from your supervisor.“

- Rosalind Picard

4. Remember that you’re not expected to have all the answers

We asked our colleagues to share what they wish they’d known when they were starting out in the industry. Here’s what they said:

“It’s important to take time to communicate what you are doing while you’re doing it. I used to think ‘I don’t want to bug my boss; he’s busy. I’ll just go off and do what I was asked to do and give him the results when it’s done’. In most cases, it’s better if you take a few minutes every week and share with your boss how it’s going. Even if everything is going fine and you don’t require any help, it’s a positive to their day to just tell them what you’ve accomplished this week and that it’s going well.

Regular nuggets of positive news, updating on steady progress, has lots of benefits, both for your relationship with your boss and for their understanding of your work and contributions.“

- Rosalind Picard

“It’s ok to not know all the answers right away! Being curious and willing to ask questions about topics or disciplines that you are less familiar with not only builds your skill set and ability to work cross-functionally, but also demonstrates self-awareness and emotional intelligence.”

- Marisa Cruz

Wishing all of our Empa-ladies and all women a happy International Women’s Day 2024!

If you're interested in joining a growing and fast-paced team of brilliant minds, check out our Careers page.