These Women Are Breaking Boundaries In STEM, And Their Stories Will Inspire You
For too long, the world of STEM — shorthand for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — was considered a space for men, and men alone. And while some female pioneers have certainly been paving the way for years, it's only in recent decades that STEM has been touted as a viable profession for everyone.
But even though there are tons of badass women working in STEM, we still have a long way to go: According to the United States Department of Commerce Economics & Statistics Administration's 2017 update, women accounted for 47 percent of all U.S. jobs in 2015, but accounted for only 24 percent of STEM jobs.
With lengthy resumes, unexpected stories, and unmatchable talent, these women represent a new generation of STEM experts. Prepare for some serious career-spiration.
Reshma Saujani — Founder, Girls Who Code
Reshma Saujani's story is inspiration for anyone who has ever wanted to start over but is too scared to make the first move. After attending graduate school and working in the corporate world, she felt a calling to pursue a career in which she could make a difference. And in her case, that meant politics! So Saujani ran for Congress ... and lost. But instead of wallowing, Saujani decided to embrace a mission she had become passionate about on the campaign trail: the glaring gender gap in technology classes in New York State schools.
This is how Girls Who Code was born. The organization teaches computer science skills to women and girls and has already reached 90,000 girls in the six years since its inception.
But despite the organization's amazing stats, Saujani sees the girls with whom GWC works as her biggest source of pride.
"I’m proudest of our girls. I love hearing about how they’re able to take the skills we teach them — bravery, resilience, coding — and use them to build a better world," she says. "Nothing will get in the way of our girls. They will be inventors, scientists, astronauts, surgeons and presidents. They will be our leaders. They will be our revolutionaries."
And what's Saujani's advice for all the women and girls out there considering a career in STEM?
"Find your inspiration early, and pursue bravery, not perfection."
Don't mind if we do.
Melise Edwards — Lab Manager and Research Technician
After studying biology and French in college, Melise Edwards worked her way up in several labs and is currently managing a neuroendocrinology lab in Seattle that studies the effects of oxytocin on weight loss.
In her fast-paced scientific career, no two days are alike.
"Some days, I'm working with several teams and scientists to organize, plan and execute experiments," she tells us. "Other days, I'm reading research papers and protocols to learn something new in the field. It's a constant learning process, but that's probably what I enjoy most about [my job]."
And despite the prestige of her current role, don't expect Edwards to be getting comfortable any time soon — she's on track to apply to PhD programs in cognitive neuroscience later this year.
Despite her many quantifiable accomplishments, Edwards finds her truest pride in the less easily definable aspects of success.
"The accomplishments I am most proud of have nothing to do with black and white measures of success, rather an attitude and work ethic that have taken decades to cultivate."
If that weren't inspiring enough, Edwards gave us some insight into the challenges she's faced, the obstacles she's overcome, and how every negative can give way to a positive (IF you have the right attitude).
"I wish someone had told me how challenging [this career] would be; that it would require a lot of education, long work hours, travel, constant revision, and a large volume of failure — but that it would be the single most rewarding and inspiring venture [I] could possibly take."
Kimberly Bryant — Founder, Black Girls CODE
With a background in electrical engineering, pharma, and bio-tech, Kimberly Bryant didn't begin her career expecting to become a social entrepreneur. But when she recognized that her daughter had an immense love for technology, she changed her path and created an organization to make technology and programming more accessible to young women of color.
Black Girls CODE leans into this mission by engaging underrepresented communities through workshops and after-school programs, teaching coding to young women who may otherwise not be exposed to this industry.
As someone who is working for greater equality within tech, Bryant credits years of working in a male-dominated industry as part of the impetus for her work with BGC.
"Part of the motivation for my work in the tech industry is a reflection of my experience as a woman of color finding my way in a male-dominated field," she says. "My goal is to create a kinder and perhaps gentler pathway for young girls like me and serve as a role model and mentor for as many young women as I can."
And even though she's faced her share of obstacles throughout the course of her career, Bryant draws inspiration from the girls she works with every day, as she breaks down walls and switches the script when it comes to girls in STEM.
"For me, breaking boundaries means defying the odds and proving that the common narratives which omit women as leaders in STEM are false," Bryant tells us. "I want to show both the world and our girls that women have always been innovators in STEM fields, that we're a force to be reckoned with and that we will no longer be regulated to the sidelines as the 'hidden figures' in technology."
This post is sponsored by The North Face.