Support all along the way:
A successful career is not always undertaken by one person alone. In many cases, a partner can help by being a motivator, sounding board, and trusted friend at every point along the way.
Being a female in a STEM related career can be a challenge. As a partner, make sure that you do everything you can to offer support whenever possible.
Where did you two meet?
I met my wife online back when it was still uncommon. She was studying for exams, but I kept pestering her via instant message until she finally gave in!
Where have you two lived?
- Upstate, SC
- Charleston, SC
- Raleigh, NC
- Orlando, FL
What are some of your favorite things?
We love to explore new things whenever we go somewhere new. We have lived in some pretty cool locations, but we always say we’d be happy anywhere as long as we could discover things together!
First of all, my wife is the most amazing person I know. Let me get that out of the way right off the bat. Even though we have been married for almost two decades, our relationship has never gotten stale, and she routinely surprises me. We met online back before online dating was considered a normal thing. We were each going through a divorce at the time and swore we’d never get married again. Three months later we were married…..to each other.
She was just a freshman in college when we first met and she was planning on getting her degree in chemical engineering. Due to geography, she switched to electrical engineering after her second year and continued her academic journey. I knew from the start that she had to be pretty smart just to take on such a technical program. She told me early on that the percentage of females in engineering programs across the country was, and still is, fairly low compared to males.
Suffice it to say, I was witness to the struggles she faced while in school. I recall her having considerable difficulty with a Fields class that required her to give her all just to get a passing score. Many late nights were spent with me simply giving her space to study knowing how difficult the course work was for each and every class she took.
As she got closer to her degree, and as the core engineering classes kicked in, it only got more and more difficult for her. But I could not have been more proud, because she had set a goal, persevered, and in the end got her B.S. in Electrical Engineering with a minor in Math. We had both assumed that the sky would be the limit for her as a female with an engineering degree. What we faced instead was something quite different.
As a female with a degree in a male dominated field, she had no trouble at all in finding a job. In fact, she was able to find work right after graduating while some of her male classmates struggled to find a job at all. The problem came shortly after when she would try to get promoted. Male co-workers who were demonstrably not as talented as her would be promoted all around her. It became very clear that while companies wanted a female engineer to mark a checkbox in human resources, they apparently had no intention of moving her career forward.
For many, the job security alone would be worth the lack of opportunity, but not for my wife. She decided that to move up, we had to move up…literally…as in ‘north.’ She took a raise and promotion, but it entailed that we move to Raleigh, North Carolina. Both of us had grown up in South Carolina, and knew nothing about the Raleigh area. But we looked at it as a new adventure and jumped in with both feet.
It didn’t take long before she realized that the more things changed, the more they remained the same. She was still made to feel like an “HR hire” only onboarded for some nebulous diversity number. In almost five years with the company, not only was she never offered a promotion, she was never offered to interview for one. Not once….ever. In fact she heard whispers at the office that she was intentionally being left out of the pool of possible promotable employees. Numbers do not lie, and her numbers as a project manager were gaudy when compared to her male counterparts, but she was stuck in neutral career-wise.
It was at this time that I could tell she needed my support more than ever. The only constant in our lives was knowing that she would come home from work, frustrated yet again at the inability to move up the career ladder.
That is the moment that I realized the importance of being as active a supporter as I could possibly be for my wife and best friend. We knew that there would be struggles with her being a female in a STEM related career, but we never understood how vital having a supportive partner could be.
If you are the husband of a female in male dominated career field, consider how you can actively support her. I learned to cook so that she wouldn’t have to cook when she got home. I started doing all of our laundry so that her weekends were freed up so she could take that time to recharge. If you can support your loved one in the same way, you cannot imagine the impact it can have!
Fathers can also get in on the support game by showing genuine interest anytime your daughter is home from school, or in her first job after graduating. Sometimes just a little bit of interest goes a long way towards establishing a “we’re in this together” attitude. Trust me, they will appreciate the support and it can only encourage them going forward.
We’ve learned how hard it is for a female in the workplace when it must feel like them against the world. You owe it to your spouse, girlfriend or daughter to try to make the path as smooth as possible by offering real and consistent support.
The end is the beginning…
The end of our story so far is a happy one. My wife finally threw her cap back in the ring for a director’s position that she thought she had no shot at getting. Because I know how impressive my wife is, I felt totally confident she could get it. At one time someone commented “I’d hate to be between her and something she wants,” and that is probably the most accurate comment anyone has made of her. When she puts her mind to it, she gets what she wants.
You probably have guessed by now that she did in fact get that director position and we subsequently moved to sunny Florida. Perseverance on her part, and support on my part combined to ensure she is successful. Support your STEM girl and she will surely go far!
I’d love to know what you think. Feel free to leave a comment below on how you support your STEM girl!
(1) : to promote the interests or cause of
(2) : to uphold or defend as valid or right
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