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How Isolation is Keeping Women Out of STEM

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve likely noticed that the world is making a concerted effort to get women into science, technology, engineering, and math. Of course, this means that there is a lack of female representation in STEM to begin with–problematic, considering the increasing need for employees to fill jobs in an industry that keeps on growing. Representation matters, and young girls are looking to industry leaders for proof that they belong. Often, they’re finding leadership roles occupied by men, supported by teams of brilliant women who aren’t in the spotlight.


There is hope for change, but the process can be challenging. There is a myriad of factors keeping women from STEM fields, including a lack of professional mentorship by experienced women and bias that makes STEM professions friendlier to men. Research backs up what women have been saying for years–there is a gender bias in STEM careers.


Why Women Feel Isolated in the Workplace



The problem of isolation impacts all women, but black and Latina women report feeling the effects even more. In a study by Harvard Business Review, 42% of black women felt that engaging with peers would negatively affect perceptions of competence, and many women claimed to avoid revealing details of their personal lives for fear of decreased authority. Others said that they were left out of invites because coworkers might project that they would feel uncomfortable as the only black woman at an event. 


Overall, there is a fear that family life will be used against women as they develop professionally, which causes them to withdraw. This isolation makes the career less inviting, and encourages women to both leave and never pursue work in STEM fields. In fact, a 2017 study reported that 56% of women in STEM leave it for another field.


Battling a Feeling of Isolation



Overcoming the deficit of women working in STEM isn’t going to be easy, and the responsibility does not fall to any single entity. Instead, it becomes a coordinated effort between workplaces and educational institutions that seek to change the industry to provide for a greater sense of community. This may allow women to more comfortably enter into and stay in the STEM workplace. 


Specific to isolation, this means building a community for women that eliminates hostility, doesn’t discriminate against mothers, and allows for some level of flexibility. How, exactly, does this happen? That’s a good question, and it doesn’t have an easy answer. In part, it happens when companies learn to work in different ways with the aid of collaborative tools that allow women to demonstrate their expertise, work remotely at times, and work with other women who might provide mentorship in different parts of the world.


Fusion 360: Expanding the Workplace and Bringing People Together



With tools like Fusion 360, teams can work together, no matter their location. This provides for a greater sense of community for everyone and makes workflow more efficient throughout the process. Opening up the definition of a workplace is possible with good tools, and maybe it’s one part of the answer to getting and keeping women in STEM fields.



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