“I had to work three times harder”: The professional struggles of women in STEM

Written by Beth Gault Tuesday 14 November 2023
Only one in four STEM professionals are women. Here, three female managers reveal how a career in these critical roles can feel like all work and low pay – and how the industry needs more flexibility and visibility from its leadership
Two female engineers in discussion while using a computer

“I’ve always felt that I had to work three times harder than anyone to be noticed,” says Flavia Popescu CMgr FCMI, senior project professional at Rheinmetall BAE Systems Land, the defence engineering company. “And probably six times harder to have the opportunity to be promoted.”

Flavia believes this is mostly due to unconscious bias within the engineering industry. Just 26% of the UK’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is female. Within engineering specifically, it falls to 12.9%. And while the problems of attracting women to STEM are acknowledged, the glass ceiling is affecting retention, too.

“Women are as skilled, knowledgeable and as capable [as men],” says Flavia. “But are they recognised and rewarded? Not yet.”

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