Editor’s note: #DesiSTEMinist is a campaign to celebrate women in the field of STEM and highlight their contributions.
There were only 2 girls in my school Robotics Club.
My Advanced Maths class just had 4 girls in a class of 26
My sister was the only girl in her Automobile Engineering class of 120.
And when they say that there is an imminent gender gap in the STEM fields, some dismiss the claim as if it was too unimportant to be considered. Yes, we have internalised these stereotypes to that extent, that it limits our opportunities based on our gender.
I am 17 years old, and an IB Diploma student at the UWC Mahindra College from Rajkot, Gujarat. I am passionate about STEM. My STEM journey has also been one of those, patched, crooked, and sometimes even blocked paths. But, it has given me the resilience to move forward, and make sure other girls like me can access all opportunities they get.
It all started with random LEGO pieces, and sudokus, from a book my mom gifted me. From then I’ve just built on those challenges, won International Robotics competitions such as the Open European Challenge (Spain), World Robot Olympiad (Jakarta), researched characterisation of iron nano particles, built a house-fire detector which got me to Los Angeles at the Project Paradigm Prize Ceremony and a patent (first place prize winner amongst 50,000 other entries).
Our automatic, conditioned assumptions and anxiety often let us be victims of mansplaining, especially in the STEM context.
I worked on a Global Perspectives project about developing an affordable kit called ‘STEMinist for girls’ in government schools. I led my team to create the low-cost kit which contained all the important resources that girls could use to develop their interests like micro-controller boards, puzzles, sudokus, and many more.
I also found the Rajkot Chapter of Project CS (Computer Science) For Girls, a US based organisation, and interned for developing effective curriculums for K1 and K2 STEM courses. It also included conducting teacher training and assessment guidance, and workshops to create a flare of excitement about CS among girls, given the lack of CS learning opportunities in Rajkot as well as the rising gender gap.
In the society, I grew up in, girls were never encouraged to pursue STEM. My parents however always supported my curiosity for STEM and availed me all the resources and opportunities.
I feel empowered and gain the conviction when I see other Indian women breaking the glass ceilings.
Personally, robotics has been a very significant element, one that is very close to my heart of all my schooling years. It has made me more aware of my surroundings, helped me develop high-quality reasoning skills, research skills as well as made me more curious about how things function in this world. As girls, we often fear speaking up when we are surrounded by a group of men. Our automatic, conditioned assumptions and anxiety often let us be victims of mansplaining, especially in the STEM context.
We wouldn’t claim all these assumptions to be entirely false, for example, for Robotics, often times when we deal with nuts and bolts, it really requires a lot of physical strength, and I guess its leveled up immensely in college for courses like automobile engineering. However, I personally think our physical strength cannot be contextualised solely on our sex. It has way more to it than that, and therefore shouldn’t be a limiting factor for us in these fields.
Today, I really want to advance in the STEM field. I feel empowered and gain the conviction when I see other Indian women breaking the glass ceilings. I guess that is also where the problem intermittently lies. Ask anyone to name famous STEM personalities of today’s age. What comes up? Elon Musk! Sal Khan! Sundar Pichai! Larry Page! Ever thought why a single woman’s scientist name never came to your mind?
While it isn’t that women haven’t done any significant research or work in these fields. Dr. Jedidah Islar, Kavya Negi, Asima Chatterjee, are names that seem unknown to all of us. They’ve made ground-breaking contributions to our understandings of the realm of science. As a girl, who always got so many opportunities in an otherwise restricted world, I consider myself privileged to be a part of such activities. My parents have always been a helping hand, and for that, I thank them.
To all those girls out there,
Don’t undermine your self based on other people’s privileges due to their gender, race, or religion. Start slow, build it up with the grit, make the best of each and every opportunity. STEM isn’t men sitting with hoodies and typing code in a very geeky and shady place. STEM is using technology and logic to solve real-world problems at hand, and we as a community should be realising it. Join a STEM club in the community, if there isn’t one, go ahead and make it. Reach out to other girls. I know it isn’t easy, but it’s time to change, and we’ve got this! We can do it!
Shubhanshi Gaudani is a 17-year-old from Rajkot, Gujarat, who is very passionate about girls getting represented in STEM, robotics, researching nanoparticles, and is a full-time STEMinist.