Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
Picture the scene. I, a young high school girl, walk into a reputable college’s biomathematics laboratory. I have high hopes of finding several successful women walking around the lab, women I would be able to call my mentors for the summer. After all, I was a part of a summer program that motivated young girls to join the STEM fields. However, how is this for irony? I find myself standing in a lab of twelve people: only three are women. My mentors, two male doctoral students. And so I stand there wondering. Why am I in a girl’s STEM program and given two male mentors? Why are there three women? Why is this even acceptable? I then recalled the statistics behind women’s wage gaps. When one thinks about the gender given more promotion and encouragement, one does not think about women. When one thinks about scientists, the pronoun used becomes “he”. I then realized that society had failed to understand feminism. If feminism is essential, honest equality of both genders, why is it that society cannot accept it as such?
I clearly saw gender inequality in the workplace during the summer programs I entered at NYU and Girls Who Code. When I asked, at NYU, why the ratio of men to women was disproportional, a lab member replied that the STEM field is highly male dominated, as women are not very exposed to it. The phrase “male dominated” being applied to an occupation, as well as the casualness in the reply, stunned me. Gender inequality should not be common! To overcome the absurdity of the situation, I became more engaged with the clubs at my school that encouraged women to reach their goals. Sigma Sorority club gave me a chance to voice my desire to bring gender parity to society. I set out to find resources that motivated young women to become more active in society as well. I believe that, if I can help a group of my female friends believe in themselves, we can all create change.
When one of my teachers noticed my interest in empowering girls in their desired fields, she told me about Girls Who Code, a program designed to educate and inspire girls to learn the beneficial skill of coding and, thus, close the gender gap in STEM. During my time at Girls Who Code, I met women in the STEM fields whose stories made my belief in female initiative stronger. I found role models such as Karlie Kloss, who was trying to change the gender gap in STEM by creating her own coding startup. I found myself mustering the courage to ask the questions I wanted and getting the answers I needed. I remember asking the founder of Sparknotes, Sam Yagan, how many women he had on his team to create his resourceful site and being shocked at the response – only three out of fifteen members. At that moment I was determined to make a change in the STEM gender gap and pursue my dream of being the creator of an international social media site.
Women’s equality is a significant matter to society, not just to me. We women may be anatomically different, but both men and women are given the gift of advanced, creative intellect. Who is to say that a woman cannot better utilize her knowledge, in STEM and beyond, than a man?