The shortage of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is alarming no more so than for women actually pursuing a career in STEM. Shreya Anand has this Perspective.
I never considered myself “underrepresented” growing up as a young woman of color who was interested in science and math. I suppose it was because I didn’t know what underrepresentation meant. What I did consider myself, however, was alone.
In my STEM classes, I felt conscious of myself whenever I raised my hand to answer a question or when I didn’t know the answer to a question. I felt undeserving when I did well on an exam and ashamed when I had to stay behind to ask a teacher for extra help understanding a concept. I worried about taking risks when it came to finding my passion but also worried that I couldn’t recover from failure. I always felt like I didn’t belong in some way or another.
As I thumbed through textbooks about physics or geometry, I marveled at the greats like Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Yet I was even more fascinated when I came across the one or two women mentioned in passing in these books who, despite their brief descriptions, had made indelible marks on the society I now live in. Were women in STEM fields truly this scarce?
I realized what better way to find out if this was true than to reach out to women in STEM careers. I recorded these conversations and created a podcast to spotlight women in STEM fields. While I found many women in these careers, what really shocked me was that many also affirmed my feelings of loneliness despite their incredible successes. They attributed it to a lack of role models who were female as well as an inherent sense of imposter syndrome no one could explain. Yet, them sharing their stories gave me the confidence I needed to continue my podcast.