International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) is a special day for women engineers to celebrate their achievements! Since recognizing women in engineering, the field is growing in popularity with the goal of equal representation of people from all walks of life working in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) roles. After you read this blog, check out this LinkedIn Live!

In honor of International Women in Engineering Day, Richa Yadav, Senior Data Scientist at Blue Yonder, shares her point of view as a woman in tech and her goals for a future without gender bias.

Over the last 40 years, women entering male-dominated roles has increased considerably – a milestone to celebrate! Despite the progress that has been made, discrimination is still prevalent in the technology field (STEM) and can end up encouraging a lot of women to leave.

I’ve often found it difficult to speak my mind at work, especially when I was just beginning my career. I was surrounded by men who were conditioned to believe their voices were powerful and that their opinions were more valuable. It’s an awful and unfair stereotype, but it is something we as women continue to encounter in the tech space. Other examples of gender stereotypes I have encountered in my career include no credit when credit is due, and men generally being promoted based on potential while women being promoted only after proven performance.

While there are reasons to think the workforce is moving in the right direction, many women are not yet experiencing the benefits. So, how can individual women thrive in male-dominated industries?

Before we explore the steps women can take, I want to mention a few challenges we experience and I have experienced working in a male-dominated industry: feeling incompetent, lack of trust in leadership skills and/or technical skills, lack of opportunities, lack of support from peers, etc. My least favorite is being made to feel incompetent!

As women, we often feel we need to continuously prove ourselves and our work to avoid feeling that way. At a previous role, my boss would immediately reject my work because he believed my male coworker would do a better job! How can we change this learned behavior? Although this must be a two-sided effort, we can focus our energy on doing our bit and take control of our career through action!

At an organizational level, many initiatives are underway to improve hiring patterns, gender diversity and gender bias. However, we can still do our part as women in STEM. Below are takeaways from my journey, which have helped me build confidence while working in the technology field:

  • Trust your skills: If you don’t believe you have anything worth saying, how will others have confidence in you?
  • Don’t wait to get what is rightfully yours: Male colleagues vocalize the opportunities they want, why not you?
  • Seek out male coworkers who can be your ally: Even in fields that are male dominated, there are men who want to be an ally to the women they are working with. Be on the lookout for these coworkers and don’t be afraid to ask them for mentorship and advice.
  • Find a sponsor: A sponsor is a mentor who will promote you in your organization.
  • Support women in your workplace: Everyone is at a different stage in their career. Women are looking out for support systems and a lot of them don’t feel able to voice their concerns.

As you work to counter stereotypes and exceed expectations through these tips, you may be perceived as bossy or aggressive. We all go through this phase and trust me, it is going to be okay! Lean on your support system, stand your ground, and that feeling will fade away. On the contrary, if you conform to gender stereotypes, you are likely to be perceived as less competent. The ball is in your court.

Gender bias ends up hurting everyone and most importantly, organizations not working to combat it. If females don’t feel confident sharing their thoughts in a boardroom, the right ideas may not come to the forefront. Women have made an impressive and significant impact in male-dominated industries, but there is still more to do to improve our position in STEM presently and in the years to come. Believe in yourself, speak up, reach out to peers and mentors for support, and then pay it forward by helping the women entering your career field after you. In these ways, women can excel and enjoy successful careers in traditionally male-dominated fields.