The Changing World of STEM
We’ve seen a substantial increase of women enrolling in and completing graduate school, with women substantially outnumbering men in certain types of STEM fields (e.g., biological sciences, and health and medical sciences). When I started my legal career, I was almost always the only woman in the room. Women are still in the minority in my field, but I’m more frequently finding myself on teams with a number of women.
Women in STEM Five Years Down the Road
I think we can take the increases in women entering and completing higher education in STEM fields as an extremely positive development. It is up to the decision-makers in STEM companies to create an environment where these women can succeed and to identify talent to promote to senior roles. I’m optimistic about the future producing more gender parity, as I see that my colleagues—women and men—are all working to close the gender gap.
My Own STEM Experience
I am a scientist by training, having received a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology and master’s degree in genetics. I worked as a scientist at a biotech company for a few years before deciding that I was more interested in the business side of the industry. So I went on to earn my JD. I currently represent life-sciences and digital-health companies in negotiating strategic transactions.
Throughout most of my career being the only woman in the room was not a major setback for me, although I had some experiences that might have made some people quit: I was asked to get coffee for the team multiple times; I was bullied by a senior attorney on a negotiation—he was screaming at me that his completely unreasonable position was normal; I was hit on by someone senior to me; and when I was pregnant, I was asked repeatedly if I was coming back to work after my baby was born. But I didn’t quit. I had a supportive group of peers, family, and friends who encouraged me and helped me believe in myself. I’m very happy that I didn’t let these experiences drive me out of my field because I really enjoy the work I do.
If you suffer from imposter syndrome, you’re not alone! Sometimes, when I am speaking in a negotiation on a complex topic, I have a sort of “out of body experience”—I can’t believe it is me who knows this much about the topic. Don’t let it rattle you. Feel confident in what you know and believe that you really do deserve to be right where you are.