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5 things I learned from being the only woman at work

I’ve been working in the same company for the past 4 years. The company where I work is a small start-up in the Earth Observation sector, currently counting 5 employees. Among these 5 people, I am currently the only woman, partially due to the general lack of women in STEM-related fields. Here is what I’ve learned so far from being the only woman in the office.

1 - The working environment is as important as the work itself

I have participated in all the selection process of my current colleagues, having the longest seniority. I remember discussing with my boss about the lack of women in the office. I remember thinking that it wouldn’t have been a problem. I was wrong. My performances were affected by this, although I continued enjoying the job itself. I realized that not only employees should like their job, but they should also be able to perform in the work environment.

2 - Diversity increase creativity

Sharing the same kind of backgrounds and life experiences translate in always discussing in similar ways, in always conversing about similar topics. In this way, I’ve realized how much diversity is necessary to stimulate creativity. Working side to side to people from different gender or culture is necessary to offer a different perspective and getting more creative, and creativity is an essential skill in all STEM-related jobs.

3 - Let's ask

I’ve noticed that my male colleagues are not afraid to ask. Ask for postponing a deadline, ask for a raise, for extra holiday, for the possibility of working remotely from a different country for a while. In the back of my mind, I’m convinced that I cannot get more than what we had agreed on already, and I strongly believe that many women feel the same way I do. We need to overcome this barrier that we put on ourselves and start being direct as our male peers. Asking for more is the only way to get better working conditions.

4 - Gender inequality is deep-rooted

Although my employer is doing his best to guarantee a gender-equal environment, I realize how much harder is having a career in STEM for women. I always have in mind Charlotte Whitton’s words: “Whatever women do they must do twice as well as men to be thought half as good. Luckily, this is not difficult.”

5 - Women need to be aware and confident

I think that being aware of possible discriminations is the first step to deal with it and be prepared to react quickly. The second step would be to be more confident, to realize we don’t deserve this, that gender discrimination is never justified and that we have the duty to speak up, for ourselves and for all the other women around the world.

With thanks - this article was written by Marta Luffarelli.

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