Ageless Ambition: Empowering Women to Thrive in STEAM Industries

Written by Evita Julissa M. Rodulfo

4 Jul 2023

Ageless Ambition: Empowering Women to Thrive in STEAM Industries

Discover the surprising truth behind age and STEAM careers—how your experience and wisdom can make you an asset!

Ageism has afflicted humanity throughout history. We are only appreciated at our peak, and our age overshadows our successes after a certain point. While ageism exists in many fields, it is most prevalent in STEAM occupations. This blog will examine ageism in STEAM careers and how we may encourage women to overcome it.

Understanding Ageism in STEAM Careers

Ageism is defined as prejudice or discrimination against someone based on their age. In STEAM careers, this can manifest in many ways.

Statistics and Evidence

Many older women seeking STEAM occupations experience open prejudice. According to a recent survey, 80% of women in STEAM careers have experienced gender-induced ageism. Furthermore, 45.6% of women over 65 in STEAM experience discrimination regarding promotions and advancement possibilities.

Statistics, however, only convey part of the story; ageism in STEAM can also be subtle. It is sometimes more apparent than being passed over for a job because of your age. Often, older women are purposefully removed from activities or projects, their ideas are disregarded, or they are viewed as less valuable to a team merely because of their age. Ageism is tough to quantify but undeniably pervasive in STEAM careers.

Ageism's Impact on Women in STEAM Careers

Ageism can have far-reaching and devastating consequences in STEAM careers. Older women may feel lonely, neglected, undervalued, and unnoticed regarding opportunities. They may believe their talents or ideas are no longer relevant or less capable than their younger colleagues. They may also suffer financially since they are not considered for promotions, raises, or bonuses. These results can lead to disengagement, sadness, stress, and low self-esteem, influencing their job, productivity, and general well-being.

Women may encounter several challenges When they age and seek to re-enter or pursue work in the STEAM field. Here are some of the problems women face:

Ageism and Stereotypes: Ageism is a prevalent issue women face in various industries, including STEAM. Older women may face biases and stereotypes that assume they are less adaptable, less technologically proficient, or incapable of handling demanding roles. These stereotypes can hinder their chances of securing job opportunities and advancements in the STEAM field.

Skill Gap and Technological Advancements: The rapid pace of technological advancements in STEAM fields can create a perceived skill gap for women returning after a career break. They may need to update their knowledge and skills to match the latest industry trends. Access to relevant training programs or resources is necessary for women to bridge this gap and compete with younger candidates.

Limited Networking Opportunities: Professional networks and connections are crucial to career advancement. However, women who take career breaks for caregiving responsibilities or other reasons may find themselves disconnected from professional networks. This lack of networking opportunities can make it harder to learn about job openings, seek mentorship, or access support systems vital for STEAM industry career growth.

Bias in Hiring and Promotion: Unconscious bias during the hiring and promotion processes can negatively impact women as they age. Hiring managers may have preconceived notions about older women's abilities and potential, leading to fewer job offers and limited growth opportunities. Additionally, older women may face challenges breaking through the glass ceiling and securing leadership positions within STEAM organizations.

Work-Life Balance and Family Responsibilities: Balancing work and family responsibilities can be particularly challenging for women in STEAM fields, especially after childbirth or as they age. The demanding nature of STEAM roles, long hours, and limited flexibility can create conflicts with caregiving responsibilities. The lack of supportive policies, such as flexible work arrangements or good childcare options, can make it difficult for women to continue their careers or return to the STEAM workforce.

Empowering Women in STEAM Careers

Solutions to these challenges require collective efforts from individuals, organizations, and policymakers. Implementing the following strategies can help address the problems women face when aging and seeking work in the STEAM field:

Promoting Age Diversity and Inclusion: Companies should recognize and value women of all ages' contributions to the STEAM industry. By fostering inclusive environments that appreciate diverse perspectives, skills, and experiences, organizations can create equal opportunities for women at every stage of their careers.

Lifelong Learning and Skill Development: Providing accessible and targeted training programs, mentorship opportunities, and resources for women to update their skills and stay current with technological advancements is crucial. Organizations, educational institutions, and professional associations can collaborate to offer such initiatives and bridge the skill gap for women returning to STEAM.

Addressing Unconscious Bias: Implementing structured hiring and promotion processes that mitigate unconscious bias can lead to fairer evaluations and opportunities for women in the STEAM industry. Companies can provide bias training to decision-makers and create transparent and inclusive evaluation criteria to ensure a level playing field.

Flexible Work Arrangements and Work-Life Integration: Offering flexible work options, such as remote work or flexible hours, can support women in managing their family responsibilities while pursuing a career in STEAM. Policies that promote work-life integration, including parental leave and on-site childcare facilities, can further enable women to maintain a work-life balance and continue their professional growth.

Networking and Support Systems: Establishing networking platforms, mentorship programs, and professional support groups specifically tailored for women in STEAM can help build strong connections, provide guidance, and create opportunities for career advancement. Mentorship initiatives can pair experienced women in the field with those returning to STEAM, offering guidance.

Inspirational Stories of Successful Women in STEAM Careers

Remarkable women defy expectations and achieve remarkable success in the fast-paced world of STEAM industries, shattering the idea that age is a barrier. Let’s celebrate the empowerment and triumphs of women who have soared to new heights in STEAM, proving that age should never be a barrier to pursuing a fulfilling career. Their stories, such as those of Jane Chen, Lisa Su, and Helen Greiner, inspire a call to action for women of all ages to unleash their full potential and thrive in STEAM.

Challenging Ageism and Stereotypes: Society often perpetuates biases and stereotypes that hinder older women from pursuing careers in STEAM. However, these women are rewriting the narrative. Jane Chen, the co-founder of Embrace Innovations, challenged ageist assumptions by creating affordable infant warmers to save premature babies' lives. Lisa Su, the CEO of Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), shattered stereotypes by leading the company to great success with her technical expertise and strategic leadership. Helen Greiner, the co-founder of iRobot and CEO of CyPhy Works, defied expectations by revolutionizing the robotics industry with her innovations. These women prove that experience, wisdom, and tenacity can be assets in STEAM industries.

Overcoming Skill Gaps: One common concern for women re-entering or pursuing careers in STEAM later in life is the perceived skill gap. However, women like Dr. Fei-Fei Li, a renowned computer scientist, bridge the knowledge gap by embracing continuous learning. Dr. Li played a crucial role in advancing artificial intelligence and computer vision, demonstrating that age is no barrier to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. These women tap into their existing experiences, combining them with newfound skills to make significant contributions and thrive in STEAM careers.

Nurturing Confidence and Self-Belief: Confidence and self-belief are essential for success in any career, and women in STEAM are no exception. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space, exemplifies the importance of nurturing confidence. She continues advocating for diversity in STEM fields, inspiring women to believe in themselves and break societal barriers. By seeking guidance from mentors and joining support networks, women like Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, a physicist and cancer researcher, develop resilience and a deep belief in their abilities. These women showcase the power of confidence and self-belief in pursuing successful STEAM careers.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion: Diversity and inclusion are vital in STEAM industries, and women of all ages bring unique perspectives and experiences that enhance innovation and problem-solving. Dr. Deborah Jin, a groundbreaking physicist, made significant contributions to the field of ultra-cold molecular physics, emphasizing the importance of diversity in scientific research. Organizations that value age diversity, like IBM, recognize the immense value older women bring. Companies foster a culture of creativity and inclusivity by embracing diverse talents, experiences, and backgrounds, propelling them toward tremendous success.

Inspiring Success Stories: The success stories of women in STEAM defy age barriers and serve as powerful inspirations. Dr. Frances H. Arnold, a renowned chemical engineer, became the fifth woman to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her groundbreaking work in directed evolution. Astrophysicist Dr. Vera Rubin, despite facing gender and age-related biases, made groundbreaking discoveries in dark matter research. These women, among many others, have redefined what it means to pursue a career in STEAM by exemplifying how passion, tenacity, and a refusal to let age limit one's potential can lead to extraordinary achievements.

To Summarize

Age is no barrier when it comes to empowering women in STEAM industries. The remarkable women who have defied societal expectations and achieved success serve as beacons of inspiration. Jane Chen, Lisa Su, Helen Greiner, Dr. Fei-Fei Li, Dr. Mae Jemison, Dr. Hadiyah-Nicole Green, Dr. Deborah Jin, Dr. Frances H. Arnold, and Dr. Vera Rubin, among countless others, have shattered age-related stereotypes and made significant contributions to their respective fields.

These women challenge ageism, bridge skill gaps, nurture confidence, and advocate for diversity and inclusion. Their triumphs demonstrate that women of all ages have a rightful place in the world of STEAM and contribute immeasurably to its advancement. Let their stories ignite a fire within us all to embrace our full potential, break through barriers, and soar to new heights in the exciting world of STEAM. 

By celebrating their achievements and fostering an inclusive environment, we can create a future where age is no longer seen as a barrier, and women of all ages can thrive in STEAM industries, making significant and lasting contributions to society. Age shouldn't hinder anyone from pursuing a STEAM career; skills and passion don't have an expiration date!