Employers who want to recruit more women in Engineering careers – take note. Here is new input from women themselves, courtesy of a survey of thousands of women in STEM-related work and a series of one-on-one interviews with a smaller group of women in STEM for a business program at George Mason University. These are not empirical studies, but they are insightful nonetheless.
The respondents are mid-career women, most having at least 10+ years of experience, serious about their careers, and work in the Engineering industry. The specific jobs they hold run the gamut, from management to policy, to marketing to data analytics, HR, technology and finance.
Both research projects are still ongoing, yet distinct patterns are emerging in what these women say they want in their careers and jobs. These are priorities that employers who say they want to recruit more women should address.
Here are the top seven challenges and priorities mid-career women in STEM fields said they have:
Getting a promotion
All of these women want jobs that are a step up from where they are today and want to be given those opportunities. They all feel they have not had ample opportunities for higher level jobs, with approximately 40% saying they believe they were passed over for a promotion in favor of someone less qualified than them of the opposite gender. Some of them wonder if they have to leave their current employer to be promoted.
Securing work aligned with their interests and values
Women in STEM fields tend to be singularly focused on work that aligns with why they chose a STEM career or field in the first place. These women took this a step further, saying they want to be specifically doing work that aligns with their interests and values, as well as their expertise.
Managing work-life dynamics
It’s not enough, anymore, to simply use the term “work-life balance.” That’s because these women understand that it’s not a “balance” but more of a “juggle” – they are dedicated to their careers and want time for their kids, friends and personal interests.
Earning more money
It may seem normal for people dedicated to their careers to want to earn more money, but often women are stereotyped as being willing to settle for lower salaries (oftentimes they do not have a choice, because they need the job and women still earn 80 cents for every $1 a man earns in the same job). While 50% of respondents did say they would accept a lower salary to have ample time with their families, or to do work they love to do, every one of them wanted to earn more than they are today. Twenty-five percent said they will negotiate for a higher salary or other compensation next time.
Improving their personal branding
These women understand that they need to have a strong personal brand to land that next promotion or great new job that’s a step up. Employers can help by offering to help them increase their visibility via opportunities such as speaking engagements and being published or quoted in the press. Employers can also offer to subsidize related trainings.
About 25 % of these women said they want to be able to drive innovation. This means they want to be doing cutting-edge work, learning new things, driving change, and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, for themselves as well as their employers.
Changing the corporate culture
All these mid-career women respondents said changing the corporate culture is one of their top three challenges. What is culture? It comes from the top, and is built one conversation, one goal, one policy, and one event or announcement at a time. Eventually, it all adds up to culture.
All the other six priorities fit into the realm of “corporate culture”: how people are promoted, aligning with values and interests, a considerate workplace that allows for a life outside of work, how people are compensated, the opportunities for personal development and branding, and how employees can drive innovation.
Therefore, if the talent you want to recruit places a premium on corporate culture, and these areas in particular, then it’s time to look under the hood of your own organization and find out what your culture really is, not just what you think it is and want it to be. Get out and talk to employees, customers and former employees (“management by walking around”), do surveys, and listen underneath what they say, to what they are not saying too.
Start with assessing how the women on your team feel about these seven issues and you’ll be making big progress towards your goal to recruit more women.