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'You need to have grit': UNO study gives recommendations to bring more women into STEM-based jobs in Nebraska

Posted at 7:26 PM, Jun 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 20:26:52-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Slowly but surely women are entering STEM fields in subjects that include technology, math, engineering and science, with 27% of women filling those jobs in Nebraska .

Researchers at UNO studied the issue over the last year and released recommendations today to improve those numbers. On Monday, four female leaders in stem-based jobs in Nebraska gave their thoughts on how to bring more women into fields like their own.

“In order to be a woman in STEM, you need to have grit,” said Agnes Lenaugh, Ph.D.

The UNO Center for Public Affairs released a report after interviewing nearly 50 Nebraska women in STEM-based jobs.

What they learned, there are plenty of barriers for women: they're hired less frequently, don't move up as quickly, and often bear the brunt of work-life challenges.

“When people understand that there are these biases in place, that there are these limitations, that people maybe perceive women’s roles different in the workplace — they’re going to be more likely to act to change those,” said Josie Schafer, director for UNO’s Center for Public Affairs.

One way to overcome that: find a mentor.

“Being able to identify a mentor within the company, a buddy, somebody that is going to be there and tell you ‘Hold on. I understand where you’re coming from. Don’t stay quiet during the meetings. Express your opinion,'” said Lenaugh.

Schafer, who led the research team, said men need to be intentional when they’re doing things like performance reviews and job searches, so they don’t overlook women.

“To be more intentional, to fix some of those structural barriers, to overcome some of those biases we don’t even know we always have,” said Schafer.

Schaffer also mentioned companies can do more to help women who are also mothers, including allowing for paid family leave and making jobs remote so employees would have more time to stay home.

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