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Women In STEM ‒ To Stay Or To Leave? Remember Your “Why”, And Don’t Forget Your “What Else”

Written by: Christelle Soto-Suarez, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Are you a woman in STEM/construction feeling unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied with where you are in your life? Are you wondering if you made the right choice getting into that field and if you should not rather consider leaving and starting over in a different field? Are you wondering if your interest in the STEM/construction fields is worth all the stress you’re feeling due to being a “minority”, not quite “fitting in” with the majority of your peers, managers, clients, or suppliers?

A question mark on the head of a woman in a black suit.

But then you remember how much effort you put into:

  • Training to get to where you are;

  • Finding the energy and the courage to go "against" family/society's opinion about what you should do with your life;

  • Finding ways to get into this industry despite a lack of representation, especially if you had no connections to start with;

  • Progressing in your career, often with less mentoring and sponsorship than some of your colleagues;

  • Creating your professional network, often with less access to senior managers and executives than some of your colleagues;

  • Dealing with being the “diversity element”, being in the “minority”; and more!

And you think it would be such a failure to leave after so much hard work!

Well, you’re not alone! So many others do! Just check these headlines!

My Experience as a Woman in Construction


I was one of you…


I studied math and technology at high school for 3 years, then construction technology and project management for 5 years, then worked in the construction industry for 25 years… I made many changes along the way, exploring, experimenting, and expanding to identify what I liked best, what suited me better, and how I could stay "being me" while "fitting in" enough… But a time came when I realized that I felt unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied with where I was in my life…


And I asked myself those questions: Did I make the right choice? Should I leave? Is it worth staying?


And I thought about all the hard work and efforts I had put into getting to where I was…


I didn’t have a framework to guide me along my exploration and self-reflection journey… It would have been so much easier and quicker to get to my decision if I had the 2-step process below right in front of me!


1st Step - Remember Your “Why”


You’ve probably heard of Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk “Start with why”.


Well, I suggest you start by remembering YOUR “WHY” – WHY you decided to get into STEM, what was your goal:

  • Was it because you liked these subjects at school?

  • Was it because of the job opportunities, the salaries, and the evolution available?

  • Was it because it aligned with your purpose: helping others, protecting the environment, creating something that people would use daily, etc.?

Then, ask yourself if your “why” is still within you (independently of your present professional situation):

  • Yes? Sort of? No? Has your “why” changed?

Now that you’ve reminded yourself of your “why”, and where you stand with that “why” right now, look at your present professional situation:

  • Is it aligned with your “why”?

  • What isn’t aligned?

  • What would need to change for it to be aligned?

  • How could this be changed? Think about speaking to people around you (mentors, coaches, trusted colleagues, friends, etc.) and other resources available to you.

  • What do you have some control over, and what don’t you have any control over?

  • Are you willing to do what it takes to change what you have some control over?

  • What can you do about what you don’t have control over: different positions, employers, locations, etc.?

By now, you should have a good idea about staying or not… But I suggest looking at the 2nd step before making any decision!


2nd Step - Don’t Forget Your “What Else”


Because, even at work, we need more than "one thing" to be happy, fulfilled, satisfied… We need an overall environment that allows us to develop, expand, and progress.


So, “WHAT ELSE” is important to you in your professional environment?

  • Being included, belonging?

  • Working with “true” leaders?

  • Being part of a dynamic, open-minded team?

  • Access to mentoring, coaching, sponsorship?

  • Writing / speaking about your preferred topics?

  • Working for a technologically advanced company?

Then, ask yourself if your “what else” are part of your life right now:

  • Yes? Sort of? No?

Now, think about what you could do to include more of these “what else” into your life:

  • What do you have some control over, and what don’t you have any control over?

  • Are you willing to do what it takes to change what you have some control over?

  • What can you do about what you don’t have control over: different positions, employers, locations, etc.?

Where Are You Now?


Now that you’ve:

  • Remembered your “why”;

  • Checked whether this “why” is still within you;

  • Assessed how your present professional situation fitted with your “why”;

  • Assessed what you could change about your situation;

  • Identified the “what else” that also matter to you;

  • Checked whether these “what else” are part of your life; and

  • Assessed what you could do to include more of these “what else” in your life.

You can stop wondering and decide whether:

  • You don’t want to change anything;

  • You want to stay where you are and make some changes;

  • You want to stay with your employer but in a different position;

  • You want to stay in the same field but in a different environment; or

  • You want to try something else…

Of course, this is only one step forward toward a happier, more fulfilling, and satisfying life… but the first step is always the hardest!


How is that working for you?


Back to My Own Experience

Although my own exploration and self-reflection journey was meandering, I did end up concluding that:

  • The construction industry was still full of opportunities;

  • But my “why” had shifted from being “creating something that people would use daily” to supporting others in ‘maximizing their personal and professional potential’”;

  • And my “what else” included more creativity and more freedom;

  • My then environment wasn’t suitable for who I had become;

  • So, it was time to consider leaving… and to look at what else I could do with my life…

But, had my overall personal and professional situation been slightly different, I'd probably have reached a different conclusion!


Need Support?


Self-reflecting on our own is not always easy – so who do we know that could support us in this journey? Think friends, colleagues, mentors, and coaches… but make sure whoever you speak to really supports you in your reflection, rather than guiding you toward what they think is best for you…


Interested in knowing more about my coaching practice? Book a free 45-minute Empower Yourself Discovery Call!


Simply curious? Then check out Pistachio-Cassis Coaching website!


Subscribe to my Pistachio-Cassis Newsletter for monthly insights on Empowering Yourself to Create the Life and Career You Want.


Follow me on LinkedIn for inspiration, motivation, and education about how to empower yourself. And please, reach out to me via LinkedIn or email to let me know you’ve read my article. I’d love to hear from you if you have any feedback, suggestions, or anything else you want to tell me! Visit my website for more info!


 

Christelle Soto-Suarez, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Christelle Soto-Suarez is a Personal Leadership & Development Coach who empowers Women in STEM / Construction to create the Life and Career they want, and is the founder of Pistachio-Cassis Coaching. She’s a certified professional coach and a member of the International Coaching Federation.


However, coaching is her 2nd career. Previously, she spent 25 years as a construction professional, working on a wide range of construction and engineering projects and in different roles. She worked and lived in several countries, experienced working in multicultural teams, and speaks 3 languages.


But however fulfilling and challenging these experiences were, the time came when she realized that she actually felt unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied with where she was in her life…


Through her own exploration journey to discover how to create the life and career she wanted for herself, Christelle realized she was actually following a life coaching process… That fascinated her so much that she trained as a professional life coach and she set up her own coaching practice to empower others to also create the life and career they want.


Outside of coaching, Christelle loves expanding her horizons through reading, conversing with people with different backgrounds and experiences, and relaxing in nature.


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