After leaving workplaces to escape sexism in STEM industries, I only found myself at other, equally male-dominated companies. I thought of transferring to a more “female” field—but then I had the chance to ask Gloria Steinem for advice.
She stood alone at a conference for a split second, so I made my move, told her of my trials, and asked about exiting largely male industries to save myself—even though I knew working from the inside of a corporation had its value. Gloria said, “If you can do it, you should stay.”
I know it sounds minor, but that little bit of encouragement made a dramatic difference for me. So I am giving that same advice to all women who are vacillating about quitting predominantly male organizations: If you can do it, you should stay. But once inside, we women need to speak up. As I learned to get and keep the floor, speak confidently, relate my accomplishments, and advocate for myself, I found greater career success and respect.
Once self-empowered, these same behaviors helped me become a leader and an advocate for other women and underrepresented groups. As a change agent who brought forth a more inclusive workplace, I took on a bigger cause beyond myself—which has kept me motivated throughout my career.
Lucinda Jackson is the author of Just a Girl: Growing Up Female and Ambitious about her struggles to succeed in the male-dominated chemical and oil and gas organizations and Project Escape: Lessons for an Unscripted Life coming out in April 2022 about the transition from career to retirement. As a PhD scientist and global corporate executive, Jackson spent almost fifty years in academia and Fortune 500 companies. She has published articles, book chapters, magazine columns, and patents and is featured on podcasts and radio. She is the founder of LJ Ventures, where she speaks and consults on energy and the environment and empowering women and scientists in the workplace and in our Next Act. Connect with Jackson or find her books at: www.lucindajackson.com.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.