Dating coach Holly Shaftel wants to engineer the perfect match for millennial women in STEM
Dating isn’t rocket science.
But it can certainly feel that way at times, according to Holly Shaftel, a millennial working at NASA who has made it her mission to help women in the science, technology, engineering and math fields find love.
“I’ve always been interested in the science behind love and sex appeal,” Shaftel, 29, told Moneyish. “Women deal with a lot of sexism in STEM fields, and that can sometimes carry over into dating, where men are intimidated by female intelligence.”
Her own personal struggles with dating while working as a science editor inspired her to to get a life coaching certification and start her own private dating coaching business.
“Being in this male-dominated field, interviewing scientists who are often male, I felt this inferiority complex. I felt intimidated. I felt like I had to make more of an effort to prove myself as a woman,” she said. “I talked to other women [in my field] and they felt that way, too.”
Shaftel uses a few different techniques in her practice, the first one being a 70-question assessment with prompts such as, “I’d rather give than receive,” and “I am fearless,” where clients are told to answer honestly. This helps Shaftel gauge their outlook on life and dating. Each client’s session varies depending on the person, but can include: fine-tuning how to write a strong dating profile; tips on building confidence with self-love exercises; and discussing how to make time for dating while climbing the career ladder in one’s STEM field. Her services don’t come cheap — a one-time payment of $400 gets you the assessment, and then a dating coach session and future customized coaching can cost upwards of $3,000. She’s already helped dozens of her own friends, however, and while the business is geared towards women in STEM, Shaftel says anyone can sign up for her coaching.
“We tackle things like, ‘You’re moving up in your STEM career and breaking those glass ceilings, but you can’t find the time to date somehow.’ I’ll help you find time to date and manage your life,” she said.
Women make up 24% of the STEM workforce, and although they are still paid less than their male counterparts, the pay gap between the genders in STEM fields is still less than it is on average for all workers, according to government data. So no matter who’s doing them, STEM jobs pay significantly more than non-STEM jobs, on average. Indeed, data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that the projected average salary of a 2017 grad with an engineering degree is about $66,000; computer science grads net $65,500; and math and science majors earn $59,368. Meanwhile, a humanities grad can expect to make just $48,700.
Research suggests that some successful STEM women may be afraid to share their achievements with potential dates, however, because they are worried that they will intimate potential partners. Researchers at the Harvard Business Review surveyed male and female students. Each group was asked about their professional preferences, including compensation, and were told that their answers would help them get a job after graduation. When told that the career office would be reviewing their answers, women responded similarly to their male counterparts, with just a small drop in requested compensation. However, the single women in the study downplayed their career ambitions in the answers when they were told their answers would be viewed by classmates. Instead, they said they would accept getting paid a staggering $18,000 less in salary, and rated themselves as less ambitious. Male respondents and women in relationships responded the same in both circumstances.
But Shaftel doesn’t think you should play down your smarts. Indeed, she’s seen women do it and doesn’t think that it works. “I felt like I was smarter,” she said. “I said, ‘Do I have to be this woman?’ I felt like I had so much more to offer.”
Shaftel practiced what she now preaches in her own dating life by taking pride in her work instead of downplaying it. She recalled showing her now-boyfriend of four years an Earth science mobile app that she worked on at her day job.
“After I showed him how it worked, he said to me, ‘Wow, I’ve never nerded off with a woman before,’” she said, realizing that, “Confidence and brains trump all.”
Shaftel is determined to change the stigmas by “bushwhacking through the ineffective advice and sexist bulls—t out there,” as she writes on her website. One prompt she gives clients to boost their egos is having them keep a journal of all of their positive qualities and attributes, or “what makes you amazing.”
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