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Tuesday 20 August 2019
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Choosing careers in STEM


Dear AFETT, I am leaving school in a few months and all of my subjects are in the science field. I have always heard that it is a male-dominated field and that I may not experience much growth in my career life. Can you help me?


Young Patty Wan

Dear Young Patty Wan,

Within the past decade more women have been entering the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). What was once a globally male-dominated industry, now has women breaking this glass ceiling and for some of us, the thought can be a bit intimidating at times.

I myself was just like you a few months ago, having recently left school. However, what I can tell you is that as a young, aspiring professional, these challenges are what will shape the type of career that you would enjoy as a specialist in your desired field of study. To help with your concerns, I would explain to you the importance of women choosing to study your chosen field.

Women choosing to have careers in STEM have not only bridged the gender gap but has also opened new opportunities and increased prospects for women in this rapidly emerging industry. When the talents and intelligence of women are utilised, there will be increased competency, knowledge and understanding in STEM. This new perspective offers the full potential of the field to be utilised which in turn, provides countries with more tools to prevent, help and solve many problems in all sectors of society. The United Nations published an article titled Breaking Barriers: Encouraging Young Women into STEM Careers, where it outlined the benefits of these endeavours to organisations, the economy and other women.

For instance: companies perform better with diverse teams. This is especially true as there is the ability to pull from different pools of emotional intelligence and varying talent sources. Also too, the economy benefits from the increased purchasing power as women, having the ability to enter fields that allow them to earn more, are able to exercise a greater sense of financial freedom. Most importantly, these women act as a role model for the younger generation, producing a more confident and able pool of persons to add to the pool.

In TT, companies such as those within the oil and gas sector, the innovation sector as well as in ministries, all offer lucrative opportunities for women in STEM.

Nonetheless, while the gender balance is greatly improving, there is still far to go as the journey of women is not complete. The desire still exists for mentorships among female students, so that people like us can feel more confident in our subject choices and career desires. The MWM (million women mentors organisation) reports that one in four girls have explained that their greatest challenges in this field are lack of motivation, support, confidence and role models. Camille Wardrop Alleyne, a NASA aerospace engineer from TT said, “When we empower and inspire girls to believe in themselves and dream big dreams… they will be the catalyst for positive and lasting change in their environment, country and world.”

This is why I would strongly recommend joining the youth arm of organisations such as AFETT where, like me, you will meet many women in the field who can help support and instil a measure of confidence in your chosen field.

Notwithstanding, Dr Gerda Kamberova, an international professor of computer science, urges students to persevere even if they do not immediately excel. “Women – more than men – believe that if they don’t get an ‘A’ in something, they’re not good at it,” Dr Kamberova said. “But you shouldn’t get discouraged. If you love something like engineering or computer science, pursue it.”

Today, we celebrate these achievements and remember that, as women in STEM we must follow the steps of the women before us as we lead the way and be the helping hand for the women after us. So, what’s next? The United Nations outlined in its Breaking Barriers Journal Kit that you should go for it – find work that is challenging, interesting and rewarding. Find mentors, coaches and sponsors to support you in your STEM journey.

Happy World Telecommunication and Information Society Day

AFETT’s Youth Arm

AFETT is a not-for-profit organisation formed in 2002 with the goal of bringing together professional women and engaging in networking opportunities, professional training and business ideas. ASK AFETT is a column meant to address issues and concerns of professionals seeking advice to assist in progressing in their careers. Today's response was written by AFETT YOUTH member, Riyana Gobin, scholarship recipient, student in the field of electrical and computer engineering. Learn more about AFETT at www.afett.com, search for AFETT Events on Facebook, follow us @AFETTEXECS on Twitter or contact us at (868) 343-2160. Email us your career-related questions at admin.afett@gmail.com.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors, meant strictly as advice and guidance, based upon their experience and expertise. In no way are they meant to be legally binding upon AFETT and or its members, servants nor agents.

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