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Successful Women in STEM Have These 6 Things in Common


According to new research, successful women in STEM have these 6 things in common.

A new research study led by Laura Sherbin, Co-President at the U.S. Center for Talent Innovation (CTI), found that there are some key traits shared by the most successful women in STEM.

Through a representative survey of 3,212 individuals with STEM credentials, alongside dozens of interviews and focus group conversations, the differentiators of success for women in STEM were found to be:



In STEM, women’s confidence has long been under assault from implications and overt insults that women are less likely to succeed, and even suggestions that “innate” differences between men and women make women less suited for STEM careers.  A defining trait amongst the most successful women in STEM was innate confidence in their abilities.


Claiming credit for their ideas.

In STEM fields, the ideas that spark innovation are currency, markers of exceptional colleagues. Yet 82% of women in STEM say their contributions are ignored. Successful women in STEM are more likely to speak up when they’re overlooked with 40% of them confronting the situation head on.


Investing in peer networks.

The research found that successful women invest deeply in peer networks. They’re more likely than other STEM women to help peers connect to senior leaders and to risk their own reputations to advocate for the ideas and skills of their peers.

This deep investment pays off. In return, women surveyed who had achieved success in STEM were more likely to have peers who back their ideas in meetings than other women in STEM, and were more likely to have peers who ensure they receive credit for their ideas.


Building up protégés.

A majority of successful women in STEM report sponsoring someone at their companies. They were more likely to advocate for their protégé’s next promotion, identify weak spots in their protégé’s performance and help fix them, and also defend their protégé when they stumble. But this sponsorship isn’t merely altruistic. Instead, many successful STEM women have discovered that sponsoring others helps them build their own reputations as leaders who groom great talent whilst also helping them keep their own skills current and sharp.



Whilst many think it’s necessary to bend over backwards to fit in at work, women who have achieved success in STEM are more likely to bring their authentic self to work, even if tweaked slightly for the workplace. A striking 78% of successful STEM women said they are their authentic selves at work, compared to 58% of other women in STEM.


Nurturing their personal brand.

Successful women in STEM take a number of steps to nurture their personal brands, often more so than other women in STEM. They speak on panels, sit on boards, and make their credentials or accomplishments known. They meet with external contacts or stay in touch with recruiters and headhunters in order to stay relevant in their industry.


For Laura’s full blog post on her research for the Harvard Business Review go to: 

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