Being a Girl in STEM is not easy.
Whether it’s being the only girl in an advanced computer science class, teaching web development to a room full of 35 students most of whom are guys, or being the only girl on my school’s computer science club leadership, I have grown fairly accustomed with my place in the male-dominated field — most of the time at least.
Being a girl in STEM can often be a very isolating experience. Though I’ve been blessed to have found insanely supportive friends in the STEM community, I can definitely relate to feeling very isolated. Sometimes, I can’t help but feel awkward, out of place, and less capable. Sometimes, I can’t help but ponder whether the opportunities I have were only granted to me because I was a girl or because I was truly deserving of them.
Frankly, it’s been quite a while since I’ve felt out of place in a STEM activity, but lately a series of events happened. The series of events goes somewhat like this:
- In Computer Science Club, I was teaching a Web Development workshop. As I looked around the room full of 35 students, I was astonished to see that there were only 3 or 4 girls. Later, when I checked video footage of that meeting, it took me a few minutes to find a short clip where there were both guys and girls. (wow! so fun!)
- In Math Team, I was talking to my amazing math teacher about the overwhelming diversity in Computer Science Club, and he mentioned that in his Multivariable Calculus and Linear Algebra class, there were only 2 girls. (major skull moment)
- In Robotics, I was running Open House — and completely carrying the team’s PR as we like to joke. Multiple prospective students and their parents had approached me with the question of our team’s diversity. When I thought about this question more seriously and consulted my mentors, I realized how disproportionate the gender ratios of our team were; within the engineering departments, there were only 4 female leads. (apparently the operations leads really helps balance out the gender ratio amongst leadership…oh and my mentor reassured me that I was chosen as lead based on my abilities rather than my gender :D)
This series of events has made me contemplate my experience as a girl in STEM.
In middle school, I had always felt very awkward being one of the few girls in the activities I did as much as I enjoyed them. I was one of three girls in my summer math class. I was one of two girls on my middle school Science Olympiad team. I was one of four girls in my coding class.
In the beginning of high school, I continued to feel awkward in the STEM activities I pursued. I was the only girl in Computer Science Club for the majority of freshman and sophomore year. I was one of five girls on my FRC Robotics team during my sophomore year. I was the only girl in my research group. Eventually, this feeling of awkwardness diminished — but I never realized why until a few weeks ago.
Over the years of being the minority, I’d subconsciously forced myself to accept and grow used to and numb to being a girl within my STEM activities in order to continue pursuing the things I enjoyed doing. While I’m glad that I continued pursuing STEM despite the countless moments of awkwardness and self-doubt, looking back and contemplating my experience, I strongly believe that things shouldn’t be like this. No one should have conform to a social norm, just to do what they are interested in.
I hope that by sharing a tad bit of my journey of being a girl in STEM and moments where I had doubted my place in STEM, I can inspire other girls to continue pursuing STEM, despite how isolating and awkward things may seem at times.
I’d like to end off by saying that I am super grateful and thankful to each and every individual who has supported me in any way and made me feel welcome, included, and respected within the STEM community. If any of you are reading this right now (you guys know who you are), huge shoutout to you and I love you <3