What skills do you need to succeed in STEM?

Speakers from MT's Inspiring Women Edinburgh conference discuss what they feel will get you ahead in STEM jobs.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 29 Apr 2016

Other than the obvious technical ability, there are plenty of characteristics that can set you up for a successful STEM career. Freelance business consultant Mamta Singhal says, 'You need to be really curious, an adventurer, someone who wants to be part of the bigger picture.'

Beyond the obvious a love of creativity can help. Accenture's MD of Technology Emma McGuigan says, 'You need to like problem-solving and you need to want to create things. It's all about creating – creating a cure for cancer or creating a new use for a wearable device.'

Why men need women in STEM

Why is it a necessity that gender representation gets improved across the board, but particularly in STEM? MT’s Inspiring Women Edinburgh speakers were in agreement that STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) needs diverse teams from a range of backgrounds to come together to find the best answers to all manner of problems. As Emma McGuigan pointed out, ‘Women are the biggest buyers and users of digital services – men can’t be the only ones designing and building them.’


How can we improve gender balance in STEM?

When it comes to achieving more equal representation in STEM, our speakers at Inspiring Women Edinburgh were in agreement that it’s a multi-faceted issue. Dr Sandra Cairncross, assistant principal of student experience at Edinburgh Napier University, says everything needs more thought: ‘how we portray STEM and how we advertise our programme to young people’. Accenture’s Lucy Murdoch says, ‘We need to stop talking about the process of engineering and start talking about the amazing things which happen as a result of engineering.’

Getting women into male-dominated industries

Former Williams F1 test driver Susie Wolff discussed the challenges of rising up the ranks in motorsport at MT's Inspiring Women Edinburgh conference. Here, some of our other speakers give their advice on encouraging more girls into workplaces too often associated just with men.

Accenture's Emma McGuigan advises focusing on 'thinking about how they can create the impact that they deserve for the skills and the contribution that they're making'.

'Sometimes it will mean speaking up, sometimes that will mean listening and taking feedback and adapting how you work, but there's no doubt girls can be hugely successful in male-dominated industries,' she adds.

Female role models in STEM

Visibility can be important when it comes to career progression – seeing someone you identify with who has made their way to the top of a profession can be a great motivator. Some of those who joined MT at our Inspiring Women conference in Edinburgh shared their STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) role models.

The TEV Project director Caroline Jones Carrick picked Angela Merkel as ‘a shining example of what you can achieve with a STEM education’, while Accenture's Lucy Murdoch said Sheryl Sandberg, was worth mentioning for her work to get more women into STEM.

Get your nominations in for MT's 35 Women Under 35 - deadline for applications is 25 April. Apply here.

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