March 2020 —

While women make up 57% of professional positions, they only occupy 27% of similar jobs in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). And 56% of those women leave their STEM roles at mid-career levels, after just 10 to 20 years.

Why do some women drop out in frustration, while others persevere to lead major technical organizations and teams?

To uncover the strategies of women who beat the odds in STEM fields, the Center for Creative Leadership’s (CCL®) Patty Burke and Kelly Simmons interviewed women from a range of industries and functional roles who have risen to success.

Burke and Simmons share these stories in Beating the Odds: Winning Strategies of Women in STEM, a new book that reveals the experiences of women engineers and scientists who’ve advanced to director, vice president, or the C-level.

According to the authors, “These women are not necessarily superstars or tech entrepreneurs. Most are working engineers and scientists.”

Each chapter in Beating the Odds identifies and explores a common theme arising from the authors’ interviews and interactions with women in STEM. The themes include:

  • Geek girls: follow your calling. How girls and young women learn about the importance of identity, and how they overcome biases and discouragement.
  • What glass ceiling? The importance of a competitive spirit and laser focus on goals to smash barriers women encounter along their journey.
  • Crashing the good old boys’ party. Why resiliency helps women emerge triumphant from hazing and short-circuit attempts to exclude them from important work.
  • Bringing a business perspective. How to use technical and scientific knowledge to achieve business goals.
  • The buddy system: allies and mentors. Why successful technical women form alliances with men who have complementary skills.
  • Generation next. How millennial and Gen Z values like equity and transparency are helping change the workplace culture.

The stories in Beating the Odds explore critical turning points that can make or break careers and provide tools for putting insight into action. These experiences are not only helpful for women and students in STEM, but they also provide critical insight for the professionals committed to their success.

“The insights in this book will make a profound difference for leaders at all levels,” says CCL President and CEO John R. Ryan. “Whether you are a senior executive committed to retaining technical women, an HR manager working to support them, or a female leader advancing in technical fields, the practical advice offered here will help accelerate your progress and impact.”

In addition to serving as a stand-alone guide for technical women in the workplace, Beating the Odds is also a companion for our Advancing Technical Women program, which is offered by request in partnership with organizations that seek to develop and bolster their pipeline of women with STEM expertise.

About the Center for Creative Leadership

The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL®) is a top-ranked, global provider of leadership development. By leveraging the power of leadership to drive results that matter most to clients, CCL transforms individual leaders, teams, organizations, and society. Our array of cutting-edge solutions is steeped in extensive research and experience gained from working with hundreds of thousands of leaders at all levels. Ranked among the world’s top providers of executive education, CCL has locations in countries worldwide.

Stephen Martin
Center for Creative Leadership
+1 336 286 4038

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