While STEM employers have spent large sums of time and money trying to close the gender gap in their companies, many highly qualified women in these fields still feel trapped in their positions, according to a Tuesday study from the Center for Talent and Innovation (CTI). More than half of women quit their STEM jobs because of inhospitable work environments, the study found.

The study surveyed 3,212 US employees, including 1,172 men and 2,031 women–all with STEM credentials. The research set out to find the biggest challenges for women in STEM professions, as well as the best strategies for bolstering their careers.

SEE: Hiring kit: Chief diversity officer (Tech Pro Research)

Previous CTI research determined the biggest obstacles women experience in STEM industries, with the most prominent challenges including alienation, extreme hours, bias, exclusion and isolation, and not being viewed as having leadership potential, a press release noted.

“When I’d be the only woman in a room with multiple men, and I would say something that, a few minutes later, one of the guys repeated, and the leader of the conversation would go, ‘Oh that was great, thank you!’ I would be like, ‘Hey, I just said that–where’s my “atta girl”?’,” said Susan Penfield, executive vice president and chief innovation officer at Booz Allen Hamilton, in the study.

To prevent these challenges from surfacing, the CTI identified 10 company-led initiatives linked to retention and career advancement for women in STEM, according to the release. These are the top 10 strategies, ranked by effectiveness:

  1. A commitment to pay equity
  2. Opportunities for employees to connect with female or minority consumers
  3. Time outside of core job functions for innovative side projects
  4. Sponsorship programs
  5. Management training on empathy, integrity, or inclusion
  6. Mentorship programs
  7. Leadership development programs for women or people of color
  8. Concierge services or family care
  9. Employee resource groups
  10. Anti-bias policies or trainings

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Women in STEM still often times feel stuck in their current job positions, without any support or encouragement towards upward mobility. — CTI, 2018
  • Some of the top ways to support women in STEM is to create a commitment to pay equity and provide opportunities for women to connect with other female or minority employees. — CTI, 2018