Dr Nina Skorupska, WISE Deputy Chair and Chief Executive, Renewable Energy
Think seriously about a career in STEM; it offers exciting and diverse opportunities.
For any young woman thinking about her future job options, the question shouldn’t be: ‘Why should I choose a career in STEM?’ The question should be: ‘Why wouldn’t I?’
Because if you have a curious nature and are fascinated by problem-solving, then studying subjects in science, technology, engineering and mathematics can lead you into well-paid professions that are exciting, satisfying and diverse. You can also make a positive difference to society because STEM has the ability to touch people’s lives in hundreds of different ways that you might never have considered.
Variety of a STEM career
The myth, of course, is that STEM means wearing a white coat and sitting at a lab bench. And while that’s true of some roles it’s certainly not true of all of them. The reality is that STEM means variety. You might be a chemist finding an alternative to the plastic that’s polluting our sea, or a scientist working in renewable energy, or on a cure for cancer.
Then again, you might be trying to bring electricity to the billion people around the world who currently don’t have it. You might be an engineer designing the energy efficient transport of the future. Or you might be an IT expert creating video games — or the innovative technology that helps other people to be extraordinary in their careers. The list goes on.
Teamwork, travel and problem-solving
Personally speaking, I’ve found teamwork to be a particularly enjoyable part of my life in STEM. And quite apart from collaborating with peers and colleagues on solving seemingly intractable problems, it’s also offered me wonderful opportunities to travel and see the world.
Yet the fact is that, when you’re at school, it’s difficult to understand the myriad possibilities the STEM industries offer. My aim is to help by shatter some ‘white-coat-wearing’ stereotypes.
Creative people do well in STEM
For example, STEM isn’t just about having technical ability. You also need to be creative, whether you’re a rocket scientist or an architect. And while maths is an integral part of a STEM career, you don’t have to be a genius at it. Which is not to say that STEM subjects are easy. Yes, they can be tough — but the challenge they present can also be exciting. All they require is a little bit of application and determination for you to move forward and onto the next level.
Plus, while it’s true that many areas of STEM are still male-dominated, things are changing and gender is no barrier to career progression. It’s possible to explore different career paths, too, because STEM skills are transferable. And you never stop learning throughout your career. That’s what I’ve loved about it.
Most of all, though, the message is: ‘Be open-minded.’ Don’t assume anything, and find out about the real world of STEM for yourself. You may be surprised at what you discover.