written by
Michele Heyward

Leadership for Women in STEM

Career 3 min read
Black Women and Men Leaders

Have you ever looked at leadership as a woman of color STEM professionals? Women of color STEM professionals are some of the most capable women in technical spaces who are eager to be leaders in corporate America. So why aren't they leading?

Some reasons are because of imposter syndrome. As a woman of color in STEM, I too, struggled with imposter syndrome. Why? Because I didn't believe in myself. I didn't believe men who were laborers, machine operators, pipe fitters, boilermakers, etc. would take directions and orders from me. I did not even think that I can convince mostly men who were engineers and architects to follow my directions, to respect me and see me as knowledgeable.

With that being said, I was so wrong. This is why YOU should start really owning your knowledge, experiences and expertise. Your technical abilities are incredible and you're ready to lead in STEM environments.

Don't ask for permission to lead, just do it! But you will definitely ask to be paid!


permission not needed
Women of Color in Training

A lot of times women feel that they have to have permission. No go and do it! When you decide, document it, show it, prove it, but keep track of it . It is very important because we have different expectations for ourselves.

Key to leadership is:

1. Go out and do it without permission. You'll be surprised about what you learn about yourself and those you lead. There is a risk doing it without permission. There is a risk if you don't lead. You have to decide which risk is for you.

2. Own it. Own your decisions and actions. Good, bad or indifferent. Stop asking yourself if you made the right decision by leading. Instead, answer questions of your team. Focus on your goals and desired outcomes.

3. Go for it. No questions asked. Once you decide to lead, just keep going. Assess what's working and what isn't. Make changes as you lead. Very few plans can't be changed. Even an airplane in flight can change directions.

At the end of the day you make your own decisions.


Afro Latina Executive

When you work with other people be it internal or external customers, vendors or contractors, you should be able to give results. Always be genuine when working with others. This is different than bringing your whole self to work. It's ok to let others know you don't like or trust them but you'll work with them.

Building relationships takes work. Be sure to include people on emails or meeting invitations so they have to opportunity to have their ideas heard. Also tell others about the skillset or expertise they provide. Even if a person is not a needed resource at the moment, sharing his or her area of expertise is not a bad idea. Goodwill can go a long way.


Picture courtesy of #WOCinTECHChat

What does this mean? You might be saying "oh I'm doing these extra work, leading this team, getting these results." That's where you should go and ask for what you deserve. Now that you have the results you can ask whatever you want.

Is it hard to do?

It is, if you haven't documented, but now that you did and you have all the proof, you can do it and ask. All these files, documents, booklet, training results from people, when you have it, you have the proof no matter what they do to stop you from leaving they can't because you own it and you can bring those results elsewhere.


Latina Engineering Director

Always be ready to provide updates and result from meetings or conference calls via a daily and/or weekly email or report. You have to incrementally give results. Tell what is going on, tell where you may need help because that's part of telling the results.

Whether you lead a project or a team, at the end of the day you should deliver results, and when you own it, good, bad or indifferent, you're making it on your own. You are making it part of your career and that is truly phenomenal!

It is about you standing up showing others how to do something, taking ownership of what goes right or wrong, and reaping some of those rewards and sharing them with your team.

That is leadership and that is something you can absolutely do every single day.


Workplace STEM