I have had my fair share of difficulties being a woman in STEM. To preface, I hold no anger towards the obstacles I have faced in my life; in truth, I am very appreciative of them because it has hardened and prepared me. Another preface: I am grateful that we, as a society, are in the process of accepting, acknowledging, and appreciating women in the workplace more. And my heart truly goes out to all those who fought for this change by simply proving themselves to be just as capable.
From as young as I could remember, all I heard was “Wow you’re smart?! I never would have guessed!”. At a younger age, I never knew what to make of this statement. Often times I was either offended because I thought they meant I look stupid (which is essentially what they were saying), or I did not mind it as much as I should have because I thought it meant I did not look like a “nerd”. But why would that be a bad thing? After a little bit, I ended up wearing huge glasses everyday to look smarter. It did not help.
Growing up, I always excelled in math. I ended up accelerating in the subject to the point of taking classes as a sophomore with mostly seniors. By the time I was a senior myself, I became a dual enrollment student and began taking college classes along with my highschool ones. Being the youngest and a girl in these environments made me feel like I always had to prove myself. Everyone, from other students to family to even teachers, seemed to always question me. Granted, I always had and always will have so much more to learn. But being surrounded by so much doubt has created a huge amount of imposter syndrome within myself.
Being older now, a lot has changed internally, especially with my mindset. I grew a harder shell and learned to be confident within my own work. Moreover, I learned that I cannot control or change people’s opinions around me- I can only control how I react and feel about them. So rather than giving people’s doubt more power over me, I learned to keep persevering in the very same things that cause them doubt. And of course, I am still learning and growing every single day. This journey of being a woman in STEM has barely started, but I am grateful for the place I am at already.