As a kid I always had my families’ support, most of my college education was paid for, and I was self confident enough in college that sexism didn’t bother me (too much). I understand that this isn’t the case for everyone, but that is why it is my right to try to shed a new light on entering a STEM field.
There is a lot of talk about the bad and ugly of being a woman in science. Of course, none of this is fake or outlandish. Everyone definitely has their fair share of stories to be told, and these stories should be told. But, sometimes I feel like there isn’t any talk about the good. After all, if there was nothing good about being in STEM, then there wouldn’t be anyone in the fields.
We need to understand that a lot of barriers have already been broken down. Doors have been broken through by amazing women. Women who have made tremendous accomplishments in science. Women like Barbara McClintock, Emmy Noether, Chien-Shiung Wu, and countless others. There is still plenty of work to be done for creating equality in STEM. However, we cannot discount or forget about the accomplishments that have been made by those women who came before us.
Still, entering into a field that is dominated by people who have a huge difference than you (in this case sex) can be intimidating. I am sure that male nurses or male elementary school teachers have the same hesitations when entering their field because those are positions that are predominantly held by women.
I’d like to share with you some of the incredible things I found about not just being a female in STEM, but from being a student in STEM. For my undergraduate education I attended the University of California Riverside from 2012-2017 for Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering with a Minor in Mathematics.
The two amazing things that happened for me in college were creating lifelong friendships and discovering the beauty in complexity.
Studying engineering was strenuous! There were long nights, stressful problem sets, countless tests to study for, complex equations, and a lot of self doubt. But here is what is important to remember: that will happen for anyone studying engineering. The problem sets and difficulty of the subject matter do not change by gender.
Those long nights gave me friendships and an amazing support group. I have friends across California and around the world that I can still call on because of the quality time we spent together working out tough solutions. Some of the best times were during finals week. When my friend group was practically living in the labs and study rooms on campus. We would bring food for each other, laugh uncontrollably all while being productive. Most importantly we proved to each other, that we were there for each other!
The Beauty In Complexity
The problem sets, tests, and complex equations opened my eyes to what my brain could accomplish. Not many people are able to comprehend thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, or game theory and see the beauty within them. These subjects and their artistry are only saved for those of us who have decided to dedicate part of our lives to science.
The self doubt is part of being human. It comes to us naturally when we are in high school and college. This is the stage in our lives where we are figuring out who we are. The self doubt made me a stronger person.
I Can Do It All Over Again
Of course, I can say that it was all worth it looking back. If I had the chance, I would do it all over again. 100%. Now, I can proudly say that I am part of the 11% of female Engineers in the United States.
Without STEM, I wouldn’t be sharing aspects of my story with you. Even more importantly without going through engineering, Make them Mainstream, an organization to support and celebrate women in STEM, would not exist.
Hopefully, this article was able to show you just a glimmer of the amazing experiences that studying STEM has in store for you. Being a woman in STEM is not an uphill battle. You will form friendships, cultivate intellect and discover who you are!
About the AUTHOR
Danielle Connolly is a mechanical engineer. She started her blog Make Them Mainstream to provide young girls with inspiration and amazing resources to take up STEM. You can learn more about Danielle and her initiative Make Them Mainstream at www.makethemmainstream.com.
Follow them on social media @makingthemmainstream (on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) or @makemainstream (on twitter).
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