I have been fortunate enough to have experienced a very few external biases being a woman in STEM. I have always felt supported and I grew up in a progressive environment.
I was told that I could achieve anything I set my mind on.
However, I also know what it feels like to walk into a room and feel like the odd one out. There is a lack of comfort in not seeing aspects of yourself represented in your colleagues and peers whether this is with regards to race, socio-economic background, or in my experience gender. One particular memory that has stuck with me was during my final year of high school when I was the only girl in my AP Physics class. Through this experience I became aware of the lack of diversity in STEM. However, at the time I didn’t quite understand the bigger picture.
My inspiration for starting the Women in STEM Society at the University of Edinburgh was not only to encourage women to pursue careers and further studies in STEM but also to promote confidence through real life inspirational examples. This determination came from the realization that some of the biggest prejudices and challenges I’ve faced as a woman have been those that I had created for myself.
I find that I am my own harshest critic, and despite my achievements, I am constantly battling self-doubt and imposter syndrome. Though this is something that I am continually working on, I’m aware that this is not a problem unique to me but a matter that many of my female peers and friends deal with as well.
I was recently interviewed on the Her Own Boss podcast along with two of my colleagues and friends from Augment Bionics. This truthful conversation shed light on behavioural differences between women and men and the confidence issues that fuel this. Women are less likely to take risks in entrepreneurship, we are more likely to come up with a backup plan, and we always want to be prepared. Speaking on these trends allowed me to reflect on my own tendencies. Through my academic and professional career, I’ve often found myself envious of the typical man’s confidence in voicing their opinions and by the calmness they exude despite making mistakes. And I know that for many women, myself included it’s difficult to find the balance between being assertive and ‘lady-like’, being a leader, but not being labelled as ‘bossy’, and speaking up without the nagging fear of being wrong.
Speaking about these issues with friends, family, fellow women, and men is so important. I hope through my work with societies and various initiatives I can continue fuelling these important conversations that challenge the current status-quo.
With thanks - this article was written by Elisabeth Feldstein.