As America struggles to find talent in technical careers, we’ve done a poor job of telling stories on why more women should take up science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. At a recent panel discussion on the role of women in STEM careers, women said they felt a sense of isolation that grew from being underrepresented in technical careers.
STEM careers offered less social acceptance as they grew up. One panel member said that she had to purposely fail a math course to find acceptance in her social circles that had a distaste towards STEM careers. Another felt she always struggled to have a sense of acceptance among her peers.
Women are leading the jobs sector in multiple areas. But STEM fields are male dominated and less diverse. Why should a girl interested in robotics at high school face social stigma if she wants to become an engineer? Here are a few ways we can make systemic change:
- Ask a professor in engineering to link dry equations and mechanical stuff to how they really change the world.
- Make simple changes in curriculum so that every science course adds a “make a difference” component. Value story telling.
- Fathers have an important role in nurturing young girls to enter STEM careers.
- Provide middle school students with diverse role models in STEM careers. Make sure that they are fun to relate to.
- Add mentoring and value-added internships at the high school level. Give this opportunity to students from all public schools, not just students from prep schools and élite private schools.
- Make sure that teachers teach science and math with passion. Unfortunately, our education system enjoys lengthy “common core standards.” This drains teachers’ time in adapting to standards. Make sure that bureaucratic standards do not take away the joy and passion of learning math and science.
No one talked.
The boss did not call meetings. We worked in silos thinking that everything was going on well with the world. Until, one day work became an autonomous unchallenging tryst with life itself.
A very common situation. During the mid-1990s, I worked for a boss who sat just two feet away. A very nice man but he never believed in feedback. If asked, he would shrug his shoulders and say: “You are doing just fine.”
Managerial feedback is as important as workplace harmony. As human beings, our innate curiosity makes us ask: How and Why.
“You’ve got to look into the mirror before giving feedback to others,” says Suzanne Peterson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at the WP Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “Giving and receiving feedback enhances your credibility,” Dr. Peterson said at a recent coaching session I had the good fortune to attend.
How many of us have asked (or rather dared to ask) direct reports about our own performance? I’ve done it and it has helped me immensely. In one instance, a direct report said: “You need to tell us clearly what you want us to do and then let go.” Translated, it meant: “Shut up and trust me with my work.” I understood clearly that trust matters.
Here are some common sense tips to improve feedback:
- Make a list of what you do once every two weeks
- Share important achievements and challenges with your boss
- When good things happen, let your boss know. This adds up during your performance review.
- Jot down key accomplishments as they will help you in your career
- Always keep an eye on where you want to go (make better lists)
- Seek feedback from direct reports and peers
- Even if your boss doesn’t respond, keep sending lists. We all know that record keeping helps.
- Finally, believe in yourself. We can improve and help others be better.