Girls in STEM: 4 Pieces of Advice
By Alma Matters
December 2, 2021
Women make up 29% of the STEM workforce.
Now, if you are a girl in high school and you like STEM, you are good at it, and you would like to pursue it further, I have good news for you.
In our podcasts with Professor Isobel Ojalvo of Princeton University and Anika Gupta, MIT Alum and PhD Candidate at Harvard, I asked them what they would advise Girls in STEM.
Here’s the summary of what they shared:
1.Find a Mentor
Mentors have played a critical role in the STEM pursuits of Prof Ojalvo and Anika.
For example, as a student Anika experienced mentors who
Prof. Ojalvo has had some really great mentors in her life as well. She tells this mentor story that helped her gain confidence in her abilities.
So, Prof Ojalvo went back to Grad School after a 2-year hiatus, and she was having a very difficult time preparing for the PhD Qualifying Examination.
In the end, Prof Ojalvo received the highest score in the Qualifying Exam!
Just because you didn't have all the tools to begin with to succeed, doesn't mean that you can't learn the tools, if you have the right mentor.
So, as you look for that Mentor...
2. Turn Underrepresentation into a Strength
Prof Ojalvo remembers that in school she was often the only girl in many of her classes or, one of maybe 10% of the class or 5% of the class, especially when it was something more physics or engineering related. She felt a little bit alone and not part of a regular group.
Anika has similar experiences in meetings where she is one, if not one of the few women in the room. She says that can feel intimidating, feel out of place.
From personal experience, Anika believes in turning this underrepresentation into a strength.
3. Speak Up
Anika believes in self-advocacy.
She says, as a girl, there is a tendency to be overlooked. So,
Speak up. Make yourself heard. Contribute to the conversation.
4. Stick with it!
Prof Ojalvo sees situations where there is not necessarily actual bias but it's more systemic bias. For instance, that you're treating a female researcher differently from a male researcher, you don't realize it.
Prof Ojalvo’s philosophy is that this can be seen as something that can defeat you or it can be seen as something that motivates you, makes you more determined:
Hope you find these 4 pieces of advice helpful as you pursue STEM. Good Luck!
If you want to learn more about Professor Ojalvo and Anika Gupta’s professional journey, check out their podcasts: