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Representation matters


My grandpa loved math. His passion for it spilled over to his four sons and his nine grandchildren. And because of that, math became something I excelled at.

From a young age, my parents would drill me on formulas and teach me things like multiplication and long division way before I was taught those things at school. I also found a love for science. Learning about the world around me was thrilling, adding to its beauty.

Thus, I wasn’t really taught about the fact that women were disproportionately underrepresented in STEM fields. I had always thought that a majority of doctors were women because at the point I decided I wanted to become a pediatrician, I had only had female doctor. But eventually, I learned about things such as the gender wage gap and the fact that female-dominated careers (such as nurses and teachers) are paid significantly less than male-dominated careers (such as lawyers and computer scientists).

But, I was privileged enough that this issue never directly affected me: I never felt discouraged in my pursuit of a STEM career just because I was a girl. However, I became aware of how it affected girls who weren’t as privileged as me. For example, my mom, who’s from one of the poorest states in India, became the first girl in her family’s community to become an engineer.

Additionally, the higher up one goes in education, the fewer women they will see. For example, my AP Calculus class was mostly girls, but when I spoke to a few college students, they said in undergrad, women made up less than half of the students in their STEM classes, and then in grad school, it was significantly less than that.

So, for my Girl Scout Gold Award project (a sustainable project that impacts the community, it is the most prestigious award a Girl Scout can get), I decided to address the issue of a lack of women in STEM fields.

Through my research, I found that women make up only 28% of the workforce in STEM fields. Given the fact that they make up about 50% of the world’s population, this statistic further reinforces the idea that the lack of women in STEM fields was due to a societal issue.

Thus, I tried to understand why this was the case. I found that the biggest issue was a lack of representation. When girls don’t see women in STEM fields, they don’t believe STEM is for them. Because I did see so many women, I never felt as though STEM wasn’t for me but the girls who saw only men ended up having the idea that fields such as biology, math, computer science, etc., are only for men.

To tackle this, I reached out to women in STEM fields and requested they make a video about their careers. This way, girls who watched the videos would be able to see themselves in the women. Some of the women also made videos about a STEM topic, such as one that explained inverse problems. I also independently made videos that explained things such as how hot air balloons work, what living things are, how mountains form, etc., and published them on the channel. The purpose of the topic videos was to increase girls’ knowledge in STEM.

I would be very grateful if readers could please share the link to my channel with any elementary school-aged girls and middle school-aged girls (and of course, high school-aged girls are more than welcome to watch the videos) they know. Link to the YouTube channel: I appreciate all the help.

VAAGEESHA DAS is a senior at Morgantown High School. Information comes from: Hurt, A. (2021, July 9). What is cell cultured meat and when can you try it? Discover Magazine.; Sentient Media. (2021, November 19). Lab-grown meat: What is cultured meat and how is it made? Sentient Media.