Earlier this summer at Fiber Connect, the annual Women in Fiber program convened again for a very special luncheon to meet, network, and discuss some of the issues facing women in the industry. Janet Schijn, an industry veteran and trailblazer for women in tech, shared her top workplace tips with over one hundred women in the audience.
It is no secret that women are underrepresented in STEM fields. In fact, according to Schijn, women make up less than 20% of the U.S. tech labor force and a measly percentage of corporate board seats. These data points can be a deterrent for women considering the industry, because of the burden that comes with being a “trailblazer” or the only woman on a team or project. Compounding this, said Schinj, is the so-called “double bind” — when female leaders act authoritatively, employees perceive them as unlikeable; when they are overly kind, they fail to earn respect. NPR characterizes this as the “Too Sweet or Too Shrill” problem. And that’s not to mention the pay gap between men and women.
So what can be done to empower women in STEM fields? Schijn provided tips and tricks, all based on research. She encouraged women to put their professional goals on paper. This is a psychological trick that actually increases the likelihood of achieving those goals by 33%. Schijn also shared suggestions for salary negotiation and cajoled women to prove their value— and then ask for more than that. She also shared the tried and true advice about creating a network of professional friends and contacts, both male and female.
Inspired by the energy and momentum at our Women in Fiber luncheon and in an effort to advance women in the fiber broadband industry, the Fiber Broadband Association has launched a Women in Fiber group. The group's purpose is to share insight into professional development and discuss opportunities for women to achieve their full potential in the field. We have launched a LinkedIn group for association members and are exploring opportunities to host future webinars and in-person meetings.
If you are a member of FBA, sign up for the LinkedIn group and contact FBA’s Carol Brunner to share any ideas you may have for Women in Fiber.