As International Women’s Day rolls around, it’s important for women in STEM to reflect on the progress we’ve seen in these academic fields, where women are often underrepresented

Donna Lyndsay, Strategic Market Lead for Environment & Sustainability at Ordnance Survey, explores the ways to encourage and empower women in STEM on International Women’s Day.

As a seasoned geospatial and earth observation data professional, I have been privileged to lead diverse teams in delivering innovative solutions for various organisations across different sectors. I’m passionate about promoting diversity and inclusivity and believe it is critical that women have equal opportunities to contribute to STEM, which has so much to gain from everyone’s talent, expertise and passion. With this in mind, here are some pointers for making the most of what you already have, and some advice for adding some strings to your bow.

Importance of merging educational passion with expertise

For women in STEM, merging passion with expertise is essential for personal and professional growth. Identifying our passions and finding ways to integrate them into our careers is crucial. I speak from experience that my passion for helping the planet has greatly enhanced my career as a geospatial and earth observation data specialist, and has put me in a great place to impact the world positively.

A personal example concerns sustainability and the environment and how this has affected my supply chain data partnerships work. In my role at Ordnance Survey, I am collaborating with organisations such as Unilever, Esri UK, Planet Labs PBC, and Deloitte with the aim to launch a financially sustainable ‘Location Register’, which provides a trusted location platform to conduct due diligence on commodity assets. This will be an enabler to help reduce organisation emissions, biodiversity loss, and the environmental impact of their supply chains and reduce unsustainable agricultural practices and land degradation through more effective monitoring and smart procurement contracts. This has been an amazing career highlight, only made possible through my understanding of geospatial and earth observation data and passion for fighting the causes of climate change.

To grow in our areas of passion and expertise, pursuing higher education at any point in a career can provide a wealth of resources, including workshops, internships, and networking opportunities. These experiences can help us gain new knowledge and skills while connecting with like-minded individuals in our field. Mentoring and a strong support system can also be invaluable when navigating career challenges and obstacles.

As women, we often face additional pressures and responsibilities outside of work, so it’s essential to acknowledge these and take steps to manage them

It’s also crucial to prioritise self-care and find a work-life balance that works for us. As women, we often face additional pressures and responsibilities outside of work, so it’s essential to acknowledge these and take steps to manage them. By doing so, we can cultivate a strong sense of well-being and fulfilment in both our personal and professional lives. Remember, merging passion with expertise isn’t just about career advancement; it’s about personal fulfilment and positively impacting the world.

Women’s skills and traits are in demand

In the rapidly evolving world of geospatial and earth observation data, there are several skills and traits that companies look for when hiring new talent. A strategic and systems-thinking approach is essential for individuals working in this field, as it enables them to identify patterns and relationships between different data sets. By doing so, individuals can develop innovative solutions to complex environmental challenges and provide valuable insights to clients.

Commercial acumen is another crucial skill that companies seek in potential hires, especially for women in STEM. Understanding and navigating the market, including identifying trends and staying ahead of the competition, is essential for success in the industry. Technical knowledge is also highly valued, as individuals must be well-versed in the latest software and technologies.

Waist-up view of casually dressed woman standing in electrical engineering lab and smiling at camera. Property release attached.
Image: © xavierarnau | iStock

In addition to these core skills, being curious and staying up-to-date with current trends and developments is critical. The field of geospatial and earth observation data is constantly evolving, and individuals must proactively seek out new information and hone their skills.

Finally, market knowledge is highly prized. Understanding clients’ and wider market needs and demands are essential for developing solutions that meet specific requirements and have real-world applications. By possessing these key skills and traits, individuals can position themselves for success in any STEM field of their choosing.

Honing your skills in STEM

There are many means for women to hone their skills in the above areas. One way is pursuing higher education, which provides a strong technical knowledge and skills foundation. Individuals can in programmes specialising in geospatial and earth observation data, or their chosen STEM area, and gain hands-on experience through internships and research projects.

Curiosity is a critical trait to hone skills. To stay current with the latest developments and trends in these fields, women should cultivate a strong sense of curiosity and a desire to learn. This can involve seeking out new information, attending industry events, and connecting with other professionals in the field. It’s also important to ask questions and challenge assumptions, as this can lead to new insights and ideas and set individuals apart in a competitive job market.

women can develop a systems-thinking approach by seeking work opportunities on cross-functional teams and take on leadership roles

Lastly, women in STEM can develop a strategic and systems-thinking approach by seeking opportunities to work on cross-functional teams and take on leadership roles. This allows individuals to see how different components of a project or business interact and can help to develop a broader perspective on problem-solving.

Overcoming insecurities and anxieties in your field

For women looking to enter into any STEM field, it’s important to acknowledge that insecurities and anxieties are normal and can be overcome. As we all navigate our careers, we will face situations that make us feel uncomfortable or anxious, such as public speaking or presentations. However, exposing ourselves to these situations and pushing through the discomfort can help build confidence and overcome fears.

Don’t be afraid to seek out opportunities to practice and improve personal skills, such as joining a public speaking club or taking on leadership roles in projects or teams.

Additionally, mental health and well-being must be taken care of. Finding healthy ways to manage stress and anxiety, such as through exercise or meditation, can help maintain a positive mindset.

As someone who has faced anxieties around public speaking, I’ve found it helpful to prepare thoroughly and practice ahead of time. Practising in front of friends or family, or recording yourself watching back, can help you become more comfortable with the material and reduce anxiety. Remember that mistakes happen, and it’s okay to not be perfect. Focus on learning from each experience and using it to grow and improve in the future.

In the end, building confidence and overcoming anxiety takes time and effort, as does finding a passion and merging it with your expertise. But it’s worth it to achieve your goals and pursue your passions in the STEM field.


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