Why being a "nerd" is the new cool
Women of all ages, and all over the country are rocking STEM fields. One of them, Milecia McGregor, owner of The Life e-Guide and a software engineer says “You can be both pretty and smart. There are so many stereotypes about women who go into STEM fields that just aren't true. You can still have a social life and do a STEM degree in college.”
Another inspiring woman, Mercedes Soria, has a rich history in the technology field with over 15 years of experience. She currently leads a team focused on machine learning, artificial intelligence and user-interface applications and aims to increase the number of women working in security and robotics. She’s won several awards for excellence in her field and strives to add more women to the STEM fields.
Even teenagers are taking up the STEM torch. Emily Koehne is a 17-year-old high school senior from the NYC area. She is the founder and CEO of STEMilyK.org, a website dedicated to increasing the amount of girls interested in STEM. She meets with some of the top women in STEM fields and interviews them about their unique careers. She then post the videos on her website so that all girls can have access to a panel of women in STEM role models.
Her mission is not only to expose girls to fascinating STEM career options, but also to show the world that STEM girls are not "nerdy" or "weird." They’re smart.
So, why STEM?
The advantages of working in STEM fields include the following:
Show me the money
Women in STEM fields often make more money than in other fields. “When I listen to some of my friends in other career fields talk about how much work they do for the amount of money they make, I genuinely feel bad for them,” says McGregor. There are 21 and 22-year-old women, fresh out of college, making over $75k a year, she says. According to CEO of STEM toy conglomerate K’NEX, Michael Araten, “STEM jobs pay 20-30% more than non-STEM, on average.”
“Another advantage is that you always get the surprised look. Even now, a lot [of] people don't think that women are smart enough to do anything STEM related. It's a personal satisfaction you get every time someone asks what you do for a living,” says McGregor. Breaking down stereotypes can be empowering.
Free ride, anyone?
There are lots of financial aid opportunities for women going into STEM fields. “There are a lot of scholarships, fellowships, and job opportunities for women going into STEM fields. I was able to graduate with both degrees and zero student loan debt because of this,” says McGregor.
Lead the revolution and change the world
Koehne, at 17, is leading the revolution for girls in STEM. You could join these pioneering women and change the world in exciting new ways. “Women are needed more than ever in science fields particularly to change the way we are treating our environment,” says Lisa Fowler a climate change advisor for Just Energy.” A woman in science has a unique ability to create a better world for everyone, especially in climate science. If you’re passionate about nature and the environment, then getting involved in science is one of the best ways to help our planet.
If you're excited about STEM, get involved!
One way to get involved is to participate in competitions like the #EqualSpace Challenge, put on by the Space Games Federation who invites girls (and anyone and everyone!) to design the very first original sport or game to be played in zero gravity playing fields. Zero gravity? Sign me up. “We want to empower girls, in particular, to feel a sense of ownership over our collective future in space,” says Van Koo, a Harvard neurobiology grad and former figure skater.
Exploration in school and out is important. Learning independently teaches valuable skills needed for a career in STEM. McGregor suggests that you “Take some of the free online classes on sites like coursera.org so you can start figuring out which field of STEM you might be interested in. You get to see exactly what you'll be learning in college and you'll be building up the main skill you need for a career, the ability to figure things out on your own.”
STEM is an exciting new adventure for many girls. The ability to change the world, as stereotypes crumble, is empowering. “For those of you reading this who are unsure whether to pursue STEM because it is ‘weird,’ I encourage you to try something new and not to care about what other people think,” advises Koehne. “Take advantage of every STEM opportunity that comes your way, keep an open mind and just have fun! STEM is so interesting, fascinating, and as a girl, you will feel so empowered to go into STEM and be able to share your experiences with others around you.”
Are you a girl who’s excited about STEM? Do you know of more unique and exciting opportunities in STEM? Share in the comments below!