Being a shy kid, I often struggled to strike conversations and interact with others who shared my interests. In my favorite classes I often felt too intimidated to speak up and share my ideas. I remember my mom would encourage me to attend fun STEM events, like computer science workshops or life science presentations. Learning how to code with Python, and watching hydrogen peroxide react with catalysts to make "elephant's toothpaste" really fascinated me, but I struggled to break out of my shell. Not only was I terrified of speaking in public, I also was afraid of being laughed at if I was incorrect. I was holding myself back throughout elementary and middle school and it affected how I implemented new ideas and concepts. I remember being the only girl in a computer science class, and I started feeling drowned out by boys who were much more confident and vocal than me. Being one of only a few girls on my math team in middle school was somewhat empowering, because I felt that I was able to represent a minority in that field. But it still wasn't the same as sharing that experience with many other dedicated, smart girls.
Statistics show that women are often underrepresented in STEM fields, making up only 13% of the workforce in Engineering. But as a child with a love for mathematics in elementary school, I never understood why. In my class, about half of the math-loving children were girls. Then, over time, the other girls stopped, either because of sexism, societal stereotypes, lack of role models, or their other interests. And then, I felt it— the underrepresentation. I joined the Math Club, but I was often the only girl there among loud middle school boys. I wish it didn't, but being the only girl did discourage me. And later in high school, after I realized my interest in physics, I was the only girl in the Physics Club. The only reason I kept going was my love for math and physics.
That's when I found the All Girls STEM Society by attending their All Girls Math Tournament. It was amazing to be surrounded by a room full of girls that shared my passion; I realized that I wasn't alone in my struggle. I even won a prize, which boosted my confidence in myself and pushed me to keep pursuing math. Now, I go to math camps every summer, participate in numerous math competitions like MIT Math Prize for Girls, and of course, I still go to math club. At the time, I felt so grateful for the impact AGSS had on my life, and I wished to do the same for young girls just like me. I wished to encourage them to keep pushing and to show them that there is an entire community of girls who are interested in STEM just like they are.
When I entered high school, I became more and more involved with the organization as a volunteer. Now, I attend every workshop so that I can help out with excited girls that were just like me a couple years ago. When I see the girls smiling, first, I think that they’re unbelievably cute, but then I realize that AGSS has taught more than 4000 girls… It’s mind blowing to me that we could have inspired the lives of 4000. Not to mention the others that they will inspire when they grow up.
Of course, we can't solve the problem of underrepresentation of women in STEM fields, but I firmly believe that we are taking a small step closer.