For Women, By Women: Tips for Success in Science
While rates have improved in recent years, women are still underrepresented in the highest levels of scientific fields. In this list, successful women in science talk about what helped them succeed:
Good mentoring is vital to any scientist’s success. Some key things to keep in mind:
- Select a good advisor(s) who is accessible and supportive at all stages of your career. Select a mentor who has been trained in or who has demonstrated mentoring skills.
- Select mentors who balance scientific and personal lives.
- Build a peer group to support you within your career.
- Learn how to take advantage of help that is offered.
- Generate the desire for people to help you.
- Become a good mentor yourself, so that there can eventually be reciprocity in your mentoring relationships and networking.
- Become a role model for high school and undergraduate women and encourage them to choose science as a career.
- Build a support system yourself, rather than accepting what you’re given.
- Surround yourself with like-minded people who can support you in and out of scientific life.
There are many things a woman can do in her career to improve her success. Here are the top tips for furthering your career:
- Learn how to build a good story and sell it — then do so.
- Fight dogma — do not be afraid to do what others say cannot be done.
- Careful career planning — plan your own career so that you can build in the flexibility you need yourself; start doing this from the beginning of your graduate training; become independent as soon as possible so that you can organize your lab life and personal life to align.
- Set important short-, mid- and long -term goals that are meaningful to you and take stock regularly.
- Enjoy the research that you’re doing; be passionate about it.
- Learn how to say “no.”
- Find allies rather than fight enemies; pick your battles wisely.
- Develop good communication skills and use them early and often.
- Learn how to network — and ask “how did you prepare for/get that job?”
- Learn how to write grants; actively seek help in this area if needed.
- Become a skilled teacher.
- Collect information about alternative career paths.
- Learn how to ask for a raise, and don’t be afraid to ask.
- Work against the stereotype that having children is detrimental to productivity.
- Select places to work that have good child care options nearby or that suit your lifestyle.
- Own a good power suit.
The top personality traits important to the success of women in neuroscience include creativity, self-discipline, passion, dedication, perseverance, and patience. Other qualities that help women succeed include:
- Strive to be happy.
- Focus on what’s good in your life.
- Identify personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Develop the ability to speak up.
- Develop the ability to argue in a constructive fashion.
- Dare to make your own mistakes.
- Enjoy dealing with challenges.
- Develop a thick skin — don’t take criticism personally.
- Learn from your failures.
- Become good at multi-tasking.
- Develop good time management skills.
- Have self-confidence — don’t take “no” for an answer and believe in the strength of your convictions.
- Find a balance between your scientific life and personal life.
- Have multiple interests.
- Maintain perspective.
- Get sufficient sleep.
- Care for your health.
- Determine the level of support and understanding of career commitments prior to marriage.
- Understand that you can have it all — just not at the same time.
Adapted from the Celebration of Women in Neuroscience discussion, “Top Five Things Essential for Your Success."