The 3 Barriers Impacting Women In STEM Mental And Emotional Well-being
A 2022 Metlife study showed that women in STEM are struggling the most in the workplace. While 22% of the women in STEM interviewed said they’re considering leaving the STEM field, as compared to 12% for women in other fields, 32% said that stress and burnout were their top reason for considering leaving.
As someone who has personally experienced burnout, anxiety, and depression, especially in the early years of my career as an engineer, I felt unmeasurable shame while I was going through my mental health challenges.
It took courage, a lot of support, and vulnerability to get to the other side of these challenges.
More studies are showing the unique challenges women in STEM face as compared to other minorities in the workforce.
And after speaking with over 150 women in STEM personally, 3 things stand out as barriers from overcoming these challenges:
- Hyper-independent trauma response: This is known as a stress response that causes people to feel they must make decisions and accomplish things without the support of others. Some signs of hyper-independence are: difficulty trusting others, delegating to others, and forming close or long-term relationships with others.
- Self-Identity Issues: Being one of the few women in the office (and often being the only woman in the team), can influence the way women behave around others. In the case of women in STEM, many embody a more masculine energy to fit in, causing them to neglect parts of themselves because “they’re not appropriate for work”. This results in an inner struggle to find a way to belong, which leads to increased stress and feelings of apathy and loneliness at work.
- Analysis Paralysis: “Use your brain to solve problems”, and there are systems in place for it: gather all the data, build all the spreadsheets to organize that data, and sit with it to figure things out. This process drags out for days, weeks, and even years! Many challenges can’t be solved by pure thinking. Analysis paralysis results in many women feeling stuck and not being able to take any action to move forward.
Do any of these sound familiar to you?
I’m here to tell you the first step to breaking through those barriers is AWARENESS.
Recognizing you’ve fallen into one, two, or all of these cycles is going to lead you to feel empowered to make changes.
The next step totally depends on your personality, your current support system, and your desire for things to change.
There’s no right or wrong way to tackle mental health challenges, you learn through action, seeing what works and what doesn’t.
“Clarity comes from action, not thought” – Marie Forleo
You may be able to quickly learn from other’s lived experiences, through their stories, through their guidance, or you may prefer to try various types of therapy where the person sitting on the other side creates a vessel for you to start peeling your layers of the onion and expose what’s inside.
Ultimately, this journey is yours, you have the power to choose how you want your future to be.
It’s your turn, what action would you take?
You’re worthy of living the life of your dreams, so go for it!
If you’d like support through this journey, reach out here
You can also find additional resources on the SAMHSA.gov page