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September 29, 2021

Top transferable skills in STEMM

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We spoke to 66 women in a variety of STEMM roles from around the world to ask the question ‘what is the most valuable skill you’ve brought from your previous position to your role in STEMM?’. Communication skills were overwhelmingly rated as the most valuable transferable skill, but there were a few other very interesting insights.

The top reported skills




Technical skills


Interpersonal skills

Analytical thinking

Hard skills vs soft skills 

While it’s understandable that technical skills and knowledge are necessary to succeed in STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) fields, they tied equally in the reported data with adaptability and collaboration. 

This importance of ‘softer skills’ was further reinforced when Communication came in not only as the highest reported valuable skill but was actually mentioned more than twice as often as the next top-rated skill (problem-solving). Being able to effectively communicate technical information in non-technical easy to understand ways was mentioned by just shy of half (48%) of the participants.

Entering STEMM

The women surveyed held a wide range of roles within STEMM, everything from Hardware Engineers, Data Architects, Microbiologists, Product Managers and Interns. But what we found truly interesting was; the even larger variety of places they had started their careers.

“I was able to change my career from Talent Acquisition to Data & Decision Science, all while working at the same company. I thought going into a STEMM role I’d needed to take an external course of some sort. However, with the launch of the Reskilling Program, anything is possible!

I feel so lucky to have been included in the pilot of our Data and Analytics reskilling program. It was such a huge success and it was an incredible learning experience with fantastic facilitators. One of the key takeaways from the Program was that I didn’t have to be a data whiz to transition into a data and analytics career. It was all about being curious, having the right attitude and wanting to learn and grow in an unfamiliar field.

The outcome of the Program for myself and the majority of the cohort is that a career change is possible regardless of your current role or experience. Through hard work, drive and persistence, you can achieve anything you set your mind on.”

Vicky | Manager Capability, Data & Decision Science at Commonwealth Bank

Some of the most interesting starting places these skills were reported to have been originally developed included:

  • Manufacturing
  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Office administration
  • Education 

The unexpected results

Rather than giving each of these women a list of pre-chosen skills to rank or agree to, this survey left the question open-ended, allowing true reflection from each participant.

This meant there were a few delightfully unexpected skills in the bunch:

  • Honesty
  • Positive attitude
  • Storytelling

Visualizing the data

Overall, there were 40 different skills reported, and each can be seen on the word-cloud infographic below. The graphic representation of each skill has been weighted by the number of times it was mentioned by our participants.

To find out more about the amazing workplaces supporting the women from our survey, check out our Endorsed Employers.

*You may have noticed we use the STEMM acronym throughout the article, rather than the shorter STEM. Check out our Diversity and Inclusion Glossary to understand the differences.

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About the Author
Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

Looking for a new opportunity?

Our transparent job board only has vacancies from employers we endorse and lets you see what benefits, policies and perks come with the job.