BY HAMZAH ALAM
On April 10 and April 12, female professors, directors, and professionals came to talk about their experiences as women in their fields. It was an informative event put together by members of the STEMPower Her club, who helped to get the speakers together, provided a venue for them to talk to students, and made questions for them to answer and discuss with each other and the audience.
There were lots of motivators behind the STEMPower Her club members in holding this event, such as wanting to bring attention to the issue of sexism in modern society.
“I discovered gender equality issues after reading a lot of biographies about various women,” said Senior Jihee Yoon. “I got even more interested in it when I worked with CRISPR/CAS9 technology, which is a tool used with DNA, and I realized the sexism that was occuring in STEM fields throughout. I realized that I wanted to share my own story, but not just to my friends; I wanted to bring the gender equality movement to our school and to our campus. I wanted to get people to question ‘What does it mean to be a social activist for gender equality?’ Fortunately, our forum last year was able to accomplish that to a degree, and it was very popular. This year, we decided to expand upon that and bring in people from different area, not just STEM, to really drive home our purpose of gender equality.”
The STEMPower Her club’s forum last year focused primarily on women in STEM and their careers and experiences as women in STEM. “We wanted to organize another forum since our STEM teacher forum last year was so popular,” said Senior Ariana Zhu. “This year, however, we wanted to expand the topic to cover gender inequality in other fields than STEM such as the film and entertainment industry. We hoped that this would allow us to show more perspectives on this issue, as well as inspire people of different interests.
Some other motivators were also personal experience; some members of the club felt the issue is prevalent in their daily lives, and wanted to make others aware of it and give others tips on how to deal with them.
“I’ve never felt any overt sexism, like someone coming up to my face and telling me, ‘Oh, you’re not good enough because you’re a girl,’ but coming from a more traditional immigrant household, I have felt some of the harmful effects of gender roles,” said Senior Raina Zhao. “For instance, when I want to help my younger brother assemble toys, and I’m quite capable of doing so, my dad comes in and says, ‘Oh, let me help you, your sister is busy.”
Other members of the club, fortunately, haven’t been so affected by sexism in their lives, but they still want to raise awareness for their peers and ensure that people know what is going on with the situation.
“I know that not everyone has the same opportunities that I’ve been given, so I think it’s important to be able to discuss the issue and make changes to inspire others,” said Zhu. “That was a major goal that we wanted to accomplish with this forum, and I think we did a pretty good job.”
With this goal in mind, the organizers hope to leave a positive impact on the students and show them that they can do their part in getting rid of sexism.
“Through this club, I hope to host more large-scale forums to inspire people in our local community to pursue STEM,” said Sophomore Diya Chakraborti. “Additionally, I hope to reach out to more kids, especially young girls through volunteer events. Essentially, by holding such big events and inviting female professionals, we hope to start a ripple effect to empower women and motivate them to do whatever they can, regardless of social stigmas.”