Gender pay gaps.
Unconscious gender bias.
Conscious gender discrimination for that matter.
Issues like these can make pursuing a career in STEMM almost too disheartening for women. But it’s not all doom and gloom.
The good news is that, as more organizations recognize the value of diverse and inclusive workplaces, and integrate more equitable practices into their workplaces, things are getting better, fast.
With that said, it helps to learn from the experiences of other women, so you know what to expect, what to avoid, and what to focus on in your field. So, we asked some women to share their stories and provide some lessons they’ve learned themselves – lessons they realized only after looking back on their careers.
By learning from their experiences and applying their lessons to your journey, you can steer your career in STEMM with your best foot – and your best self – forward.
Shubhangi Muralidhar and Appy Mekala – two tech specialists with flourishing careers at Sportsbet – happily obliged.
Here’s what they shared.
1. Start your career by networking.
It may sound strange to start your career in STEMM by networking, but it offers a practical benefit that can’t be overlooked.
“Before you decide to get a job or pursue a new role in STEMM, go out and network in the industry. Learn. Share your stories with others. You’ll understand better what career options are available and what would be interesting for you.”
Appy shares the same sentiment, having realized early in her career that the tech industry was far broader than she thought.
“Studying Computer Science just became a default and safe thing to pursue. While I was at university, it seemed like the only options available to me were to become a software developer or a software tester. But once I got into my first tech role, I began to realize the full gamut of what was possible in tech.”
Networking can also help you find mentors and role models who can provide guidance, inspiration, or even a friendly ear for any worries and concerns.
Appy tells us:
“I’d say that I was quite fortunate in that I had great leaders and mentors who helped me find my niche and thrive in a role I love.”
She reminds us that people and building relationships are vital to success in any field.
“People skills are important. Building tech and data is a social activity.”
2. Know when to dial back.
Women are significantly underrepresented in many STEMM industries, so it’s easy for many women to feel like they need to overperform and overdeliver to prove they belong.
But this, as Shubhangi explains, is a common pitfall you need to avoid.
And it may require some effort, too, especially if you come from a culture that expects you to go the extra mile every time.
“When I first joined Sportsbet, I was offered a part-time role. Back in India, part-time work was unheard of, so I wasn’t familiar with the concept of working part-time at all. Instead, I pushed myself to go full-time, despite being a new mother with a young baby and struggling with sleepless nights.”
This inevitably took a toll on Shubhangi, leading her to question her motivations for pushing herself way past her limits.
“I realized I was putting myself through a lot of unnecessary stress when my kid was a baby. There were other women around me at Sportsbet who were managing their roles part-time and juggling work more easily with their other responsibilities. It gave me the confidence to dial it back to four days a week for a period of six months. Then I dialled it back up to five days when I was ready.”
In doing so, she found the space she needed to recalibrate her life and career – a change that Sportsbet enabled seamlessly.
“Now, I’m really happy with where I am on the work-life balance front.”
Her only regret?
“I should have done it earlier!”
3. Be picky with your employer.
Given the many challenges that women in STEMM face from the start, working with a sympathetic and supportive employer is priceless.
And for many women, an organization committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) can be instrumental to their growth and fulfillment.
Shubhangi, for instance, is grateful that she found such an employer in Sportsbet, which supported her transition to a work arrangement that best suited her needs.
“I truly love my job and love working at Sportsbet, and now I have a lot more time to take care of my life outside work.”
And as she shared earlier, seeing other women at Sportbet manage their work and personal life gave her the confidence to move from full-time to part-time work – a change that Sportsbet enabled.
As Shubhangi discovered herself, your employer can either help you in your journey or hold you back.
The best ones will do the former.
4. Be okay with things being good enough.
They say ‘good’ is the enemy of ‘great’, but they are wrong according to Shubhangi and Appy.
When we asked them whether there was anything they would change in their careers so far, Appy didn’t hesitate in her reply.
“In terms of my career? No. But in my lifestyle, a thousand percent yes. I was a raging perfectionist when I was younger. Looking back now, I spent a lot of time and energy on getting things just right. Perhaps I was more fixated than I should have been on things that didn’t matter in the end.”
The pursuit of perfection in everything you do can be debilitating and, ironically, prevent you from truly growing.
“Perfectionism comes with a fat ego and combines with impostor syndrome. I didn’t take as many chances as I should have. I didn’t give myself permission to fail and learn from it.”
“If I could magically go back in time, I’d be okay with things being ‘good enough’ a lot more, and I’d put more energy towards experiences that could help me learn.”
5. Relax – you’re probably more qualified than you think.
If you’re worried that you don’t have the experience or qualifications to land a role in STEMM, Appy encourages you to give it a shot anyway.
“Trust yourself more. Give things a go because the truth is, you’re probably more qualified than you think.”
And if you truly are lacking in knowledge or skills, there’s no excuse to not improve.
With so many ways to learn new things and get certifications, the possibilities are endless for how to expand your skill set.
Shubhangi echoes the same point:
“Make upskilling a long-term habit. You can look at podcasts, courses, certification programs, and even reading.”
To cap it all off, Shubhangi reminds us once more of a common but quickly forgotten advice:
“Always, always strive to be you and back yourself.”