6 Inspiring Tips for Success from Professional Women in STEM: International Day of the Girl 2022
Curious about what it takes to really follow your passion in a STEM field? UNDP and UNICEF’s STEM4ALL platform hosted an inspiring discussion about what it takes to break into – and excel in – the world of STEM. In a celebration of the International Day of the Girl on 11 October 2022, role models across the region from Ukraine, Moldova, Kosovo*, and Albania to Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, shared their stories and tips.
Here are six key takeaways from the event on the opportunities and practicalities around girls entering - and thriving - in STEM fields.
1. Your academic background does not matter; you can transition into a STEM career from any field.
There are many ways to enter a STEM field, and plenty of those ways do not require a STEM background! Project management, HR, finance, communications, and more are all important roles in STEM companies. This can be a great way of learning more about different types of work in STEM fields, creating your own networks, and exploring additional education options. Finding opportunities in adjacent fields might just lead you to your dream STEM job!
"The first lesson: you don't have to be shy; you have to be open and not be afraid of being misunderstood…these difficulties and barriers are only in our heads." - Makhliyokhon Muksinova, Deputy Director of IT Bilim Markazi LLC & Project Manager of IT Park LLC under the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, Uzbekistan
2. Finding the right mentor is key; look for someone who will help you grow.
Raised as a highlight by every speaker, good mentorship plays a critical role for girls and young women in any field, but especially in STEM fields where the odds are so often stacked against them. Overcoming existing stereotypes and gender norms requires support and good advice. Find a mentor who pushes you to achieve your greatness, and to grow as a person. And once you are ready, consider becoming a mentor yourself!
"Being a trainer or mentor for others is a great opportunity to discover yourself and improve yourself. It’s one thing to know how to write a code, and another - a more advanced thing - to be able to teach another person to write a code, to see the results of their work." - Mihaela Iurascu, Co-founder and President of TEKEDU, Moldova
3. Non-formal education should not be forgotten; use these opportunities to learn and network.
NGOs and social projects often play a key role in helping girls learn about STEM and shape their careers. Non-formal education programmes also often have ties to companies who provide opportunities for internships or entry level positions. In countries where girls are not encouraged to explore STEM fields in traditional education, non-formal programmes and studies can open doors to career paths some girls might not otherwise know about. Checking out the clubs, centers, makerspaces, innovation labs, and incubators like impact hubs, as well as NGOs in your area that offer extracurricular STEM activities can be a great way to try new things and explore STEM in a supportive environment. You can also do research to see what kinds of opportunities are available in your location specifically; in some cases, there are special programmes for high school students or trainees under the age of 18.
4. Knowledge is power; there are great resources and platforms that can help you find the right opportunities.
Not knowing how or where to start can be a challenge by itself. Platforms such as LinkedIn and Glassdoor can help to search for jobs and internships by sector, skills, and location. There are also many resources out there for educational courses, traineeships, scholarships, and networking opportunities, including Google Summer of Code, Microsoft Imagine Cup, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Technovation Challenge, and the National Research Foundation of Ukraine. For more resources and opportunities, check out the STEM4ALL platform!
"Don’t be afraid to build your brand in this field. Build a network. A network gives you more opportunities to work with international companies and join STEM companies located far from your countries. Find STEM fields or projects that you love." - Rukshona Jamolova, Grant Specialist at the Technology Park of TSULBP, Tajikistan
5. Find your approach; there are sets of principles and considerations that can help you choose the right path for you.
According to Tetiana Fishchuk, Head of Communications at the Creative & Tech Online Projector Institute in Ukraine, when choosing the educational path you want to follow for a future in STEM, and especially in tech, consider whether the course or study you are interested in is: human-oriented; personalized to your interests and needs; career-oriented; motivational and practical; focused on progress; tech-driven and modern; constantly evolving; decentralized; and lifelong. Similarly, when selecting an internship, Rukshona Jamalova, Grant Specialist at the Technology Park of TSULBP in Tajikistan, recommends taking into consideration first your goals and what you want out of the internship or programme. She also suggests conducting research on the company, and considering the location, duration, and compensation of any potential internship.
6. Your future job might not exist yet; stay creative and open-minded.
According to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of today’s children will one day work in a job that does not exist yet! We live in a world of constant transition and transformation. This means that continuing to grow and adapt our own skills is incredibly important. It also means that practicing and testing out new technologies and ideas is key to creating an ocean of opportunities for women and girls both now and in the future. Creativity and innovation will play key roles as new approaches, technologies, and applications are developed - STEM is about more than just technical skills! Endless ideas mean endless possibilities, and including the perspectives of women and girls will undoubtedly make the world a better place. Soft skills also play a key role; communication, leadership, problem solving, and patience are important across STEM.
"My advice: do not be afraid of new things, always be responsible for your work, be open, have more humor, and constantly evolve, constantly invest in yourself and in your knowledge. -Makhliyokhon Muksinova, Deputy Director of IT Bilim Markazi LLC & Project Manager of IT Park LLC under the Ministry of Information and Telecommunications, Uzbekistan
Transformative Change: Looking Forward
As we continue to push for gender equality, we must also remember that girls cannot drive transformational change alone. We need leaders, changemakers, entrepreneurs, mentors, and role models to help create and nurture opportunities that create enabling environments where women and girls feel empowered, welcomed, and encouraged to defy stereotypes and follow their passions into fulfilling STEM careers. Investing in girls now, building their skills, and providing equal opportunities, will lay a foundation for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future. While the region has made encouraging progress in the past few decades when it comes to women and girls’ empowerment, there is still a long road ahead to overcome stereotypes and fully equip girls with the skills, resources, and opportunities for true transformative change. As we celebrate this 10th anniversary of the International Day of the Girl, let us continue to encourage and embrace the potential, agency, and leadership of girls across Europe and Central Asia!
Do you want to watch the full recording of the event? Find it here!
For more information on gender equality in STEM; current opportunities for jobs, internships, learning, and mentorship; and to join the STEMinists Network, complete this application.
* References to Kosovo* shall be understood to be in the context of UN Security Council resolution 1244 (1999)