If you consider yourself a STEMinist there’s a growing list of women to look up to: Megan Smith, Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sanberg, Susan Wojcicki, and Angela Ahrendts to name a few. These women have spent their entire careers honing in on their craft and working their way up the tech ladder which is fantastic, but we also need to hear from more everyday women who are in school and launching their careers. I call this peer power.
In 2015 ReigningIt was launched by Angela Cleveland and I as an initiative to close the gender gap in STEM through the platform of storytelling. With close to 500 interviews in 2 years, each of our “Women Who Reign” talks about who inspires them, challenges that they’ve overcome, their ideal job, and lastly knowledge that they would impart on other women. Below are 10 voices from the future leaders of the next generation:
1. “Sit in the middle seat at the table and in the front of the room. Never give up your seat to anyone, you deserve to be there.
Stop waiting for the right moment, the right moment is now.” Martha Czernuszenko, University of Texas
2. “Follow your passion. That’s the road that leads to happiness. You need to find something that excites you and work hard to get it. Don’t let failure dishearten you. Learn from your failures and success will eventually come to you. All the best!” Jaya Iyer, Founder of Svaha
3. “Just go for it. Honestly, just go out and do it. The sad fact about women who are interested in STEM is that they lose confidence in themselves and their abilities in their adolescent years, whereas boys their age remain steadfast in their belief that they are capable of success in STEM. If you’re a girl who’s interested in STEM, it might seem difficult to keep on when you feel insecure or others around you have doubts about what you can do. What I did to combat these feelings was find myself a network of girls who felt the same way, so we could all learn and grow and share with each other, providing us all with a supportive group of friends to fall back on no matter what.
When you have people around you encouraging you, it’s so much easier to pursue a dream than if you’re by yourself and constantly questioning yourself. Once you find those people, apply yourself–enroll in programs like Girls Who Code or AP Computer Science, attend hackathons with your friends, research developments in STEM made by females, code a side project–and whenever you feel insecure or uncomfortable, which happens to *everyone*, talk about it with the friends and family who believe in you and what you can do.” Caitlin Stanton, Cornell University
4. “Keep pushing. I cannot stress enough how imperative it is to go against the current of what other people think/say. Take me, for example: this is my first year coding. Through hard work, I have shown myself and others that I am capable of designing complicated applications and algorithms. Don’t allow anyone to push you down, and you will eventually rise up. Most importantly, prove them wrong, but also prove yourself right.” Mey Nakash, High School Student
5. “Learning to code is such an invaluable skill to have, as it has cross sections in every industry. While many see coding as a science, code is very much a medium for expression and creativity, it is simply a new way we can all have our voices heard and share the issues that matter to each of us. Everyone has different ideas, different stories, different lifestyles, and computer science allows us to customize and create fixes to problems faced by ourselves or by others. Solutions to ailments that either impact a handful of people or the planet as a whole, lie within code, and you will only begin to unlock your limitless potential once you type “Hello, World” for the first time.” Sofia Ongele, High School Junior
6. “I would say, learn about who you are as a person, accept her, and embrace her. Everyone is our role model, and we can learn something from both nice and evil people around us, so meet people, learn the thing, improve yourself, and spread the joy.” Golara Haghtalab, University of Virginia
7. “Keep a journal. There are so many brilliant ideas and visions that come from your mind that gets left out with the millions of other things that you need to focus about. Also, the emotions that you feel in a certain moment can not always been remembered so write it down. In each day of our lives, there are little pieces of happiness that are forgotten. Whether you are ranting or crying, writing allows you to express those emotions rather than bottling it up and lets the future you see how you felt in that specific situation. Save movie, airplane, parking (yikes) tickets . These become tokens of your personal experiences. Personally, I’ve been terrible at keeping journals because I forget to, but I try to do it as often as possible (and so should you!).” Areeta Wong, High School Student & Girls Who Code Alum
8. “I’ve learned how important it is to maintain perspective when things go awry. I’ll let myself have a moment where I can freak out and be upset, but then understand that I need to move on to the next thing because worrying is entirely unproductive. Also, it is far better to ask for help when you need it than waste time trying to do everything on your own.” Bethany Wiles, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
9. “First and foremost, surround yourself with a support group including friends, mentors, and sponsors. Remember you are not in this endeavor alone. There are people who respect you and want you to succeed according to your own terms. Seek mentors and do not be afraid to ask for help. Attend diversity conferences like Grace Hopper, Tapia etc to re-energize.” Jasmine Roberts, MIT
10. “Take everything that’s wrong with the world and wrong with your life and use it as your fuel. If it feels like the world is against you, realize that it’s because you are strong. I know people say not to care about what other people think of you but I don’t believe in that. It is incredibly difficult not to care. So if someone says something that hurts you, it’s ok to be hurt. Understand that being hurt or angry is not a weakness, but never allow yourself to wallow in it. Find what you love, find your dream, and know that you are absolutely capable of (and moreover entitled to) conquering the world!” Malavika Vivek, High School Student