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5 Tips for Young Women with Disabilities on Finding a Career in STEM

According to the National Science Board’s Science & Engineering Indicators 2016 report, demographic groups with lower rates of participation –
such as women – have long been viewed as an “underutilized source of human capital” in the science and engineering fields, particularly as focus has grown on the need for the United States to expand its capabilities in these areas.
For young women with disabilities, STEM careers can not only provide suitable work environments for many types of disabilities, but also a way to make meaningful contributions to society. If a career in STEM is of interest to you, these tips will help you reach your goals.

1.  Explore the Many Areas of STEMSTEM CAREERS

STEM encompasses a broad range of careers from building and construction to computer programming, medicine, and more. With so many possibilities, you can easily find a career that’s well-suited for your specific disability and inspires passion. Explore the many career opportunities in STEM as well as your own interests to discover the career that will make you excited to get out of bed every day.

2.  Participate in STEM Career-Development Workshops

AccessSTEM CAREERS is a DO-IT project funded by the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation offering a variety of resources for young people with disabilities seeking career opportunities in STEM fields in the Seattle area. One such resource is a series of monthly workshops which include “a visit to a STEM research lab, a resume-writing workshop, student competitions, hands-on engagement with assistive technology, and exploration of resources,” an online community to support students throughout their job search, and more. If you’re not in the Seattle area, seek out similar workshops and opportunities in your local community

3.  Find Educational Opportunities That Accommodate Your Disability

Of course, all education providers are required to provide accommodations for people with disabilities, but some programs aim specifically to cater to students living with disabilities. One online program is offered by Sage Colleges in Albany, N.Y., which consists of a full 120 credit hours plus small classes, modified course schedules, and other supports to meet the needs of students with autism and other types of disabilities.

4.  Complete an Internship Related to Your Career Aspirations

There are a variety of internship opportunities in STEM-related fields, and participating in one of these opportunities will better prepare you for landing your dream job, providing solid, hands-on experience in real-world settings. This experience not only prepares you for handling the daily activities of your job, but also arms you with evidence to make your case to potential employers that your disability does not interfere with your ability to perform your job duties.

5.  Join a Professional Association or Find a Mentor

Sometimes women have a difficult time finding a female mentor within their organization, simply due to the fact that there were not as many women pursuing careers in STEM when today’s experienced workers were first getting their feet wet in the workforce. If you can’t find a trusted mentor who can be your champion within your company once you land a job, join a professional association to gain the support of thousands of women, with and without disabilities, who will gladly provide guidance and support to help you achieve your dreams. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), and the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) are just a few of the professional associations aimed at improving opportunities for women in the workforce.

 

For young women with disabilities, it may seem as though you’re facing a multitude of obstacles on your path to achieving your career goals. With perseverance and a commitment to following your dreams, you can make a difference in one of the many important fields within STEM.

 

Joyce Wilson may have retired from teaching but that doesn’t mean she has lost her passion for education. On her site, TeacherSpark.org, she is working to build a resource of engaging lesson plans, activities, and other fun learning opportunities for her fellow educators and for parents.

Image via Pixabay by lcr3cr