Sitting on an icy concrete stoop, I’m curled over the book in my lap. I attempt to focus on the fantastical adventure, but tears well in my eyes, making the words blur in my vision. I’m trying desperately to block out the laughter and excitement of my classmates ringing across the playground. I’ve tried dozens of times to join them, but each time I’m hit by a barrage of insults. “She can’t catch anything… She’s just a math nerd.” The echoes of their voices are trapped in my mind, and I suffer alone. No one notices. No one cares.
Discrimination against girls talented in math and science is not limited to grade school playgrounds. Despite significant pushes to empower girls by providing more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) opportunities, and media efforts to show its cool to be smart, girls still pursue technical careers at a significantly low rate. I believe this is due to perpetual social stigmas, just like what I’ve experienced and continue to face.
It is a hidden plague thriving on the rats of prejudice and intimidation which suppress our girls’ natural talents and aspirations. Worst of all, this disease festers most amongst ourselves (girls) due to jealousy and insecurity. This kind of injustice causes girls to lose part of themselves, and their freedom to be who they are truly meant to be. Having endured this prejudice myself, my empathy compels me to help and encourage other girls to discover their own STEM potential.
I believe that by sharing my enthusiasm for technology I help support other girls in several important ways: I inspire interest and encourage participation in STEM activities, leverage leadership roles to ensure all voices and ideas are heard, and by my own achievements demonstrate real possibilities.
I founded a Techie-Club at my grade school to help inspire young students to use technology to improve our school. As a junior robotics mentor, I encouraged two young girls to become independent from their older brothers and find their own abilities to be key team contributors. On my all-girl high school robotics team, I use compassionate leadership to help the team learn how to overcome technical challenges. I advocate for girls to join me in participating on a boys’ school’s robotics team. I help coordinate and host Science Club events to bring technical expert women speakers to share why they think girls should be involved in STEM. In recognition for my dedication and excellence in Honors Engineering, I was personally invited by the president of my school to represent our engineering program in a televised interview and in a promotional video. I also actively encourage my friends personally to explore their interests in science.
Through all of this, I have learned that if I don’t buckle under the disparagement of others, I can be a tenacious force for change. It is my aspiration to surround myself with like-minded people in my future who will help me continue to demonstrate the value of women in engineering.
Tatiana L., Class of 2020, Saint Joseph Academy
This essay was selected as one of ten finalists in the 11th and 12th grade category for the Stop the Hate Youth Speak Out contest, an initiative of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage that celebrates Northeast Ohio students committed to creating a more accepting, inclusive society by standing up and speaking out against bias and bigotry.