In my November 2022 article, I emphasized the importance of retaining talent during tough economic times, when productivity and creativity are essential for your organization. I had to steer multiple companies and teams through tough times myself, and I know the task can feel daunting. Now, as the CEO of Gotara, I want to share one insight we have uncovered on what might be overburdening your STEM + women. 

At Gotara, we are learning a lot from STEM+ women seeking advice at all stages of their career. We divide these advice into two categories: career growth topics (e.g., how to get promoted) and navigating hurdles (e.g., how to address being spoken over in meetings). 

Our research shows that STEM + women with 0-4 years of work experience seek advice on career growth topics 4 times more than advice on navigating hurdles. But in years 5-15, that 4:1 ratio plummets and women seek advice on navigating hurdles in the workplace as often as they seek advice on career growth. That means for every question about how to take on a stretch assignment, there is a question about how to handle a situation where someone else takes credit for one’s idea. 

Here is the problem: after that 5-year mark, women in STEM + are never again asking as many career-growth questions (which they want and need answered) because they are too busy navigating the hurdles they face in the workplace.  

So, what does this mean? For the women who stay in a STEM + field, the time and energy they spend navigating hurdles creates an overburden and results in frustration and feeling undervalued and less respected. And that’s if they stay! Burnout is real and starts to set in at the 5-year mark. 

The best advice I can offer is to start on day one. At the very beginning, start upskilling your STEM + women so they can better navigate hurdles and grow their skillset. At the same time, it is essential to invest in manager training to promote a more supportive environment in the first place.  

Also, remember the STEM + women already past that 5-year mark. While it might feel more like an uphill battle than the preventative measure of starting on day one, growth can and does happen when fostered in a supportive environment! 

I would love to know your thoughts. Is upskilling your STEM + women and your managers on your radar during this downturn?