Geeky Girl Reality

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Geeky Girl Reality helps girls find STEM-related gigs.

Gigs are opportunities: not quite a job, but maybe a kickstart to a STEM career.

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Latest articles from the Geeky Girl Reality Blog

1) Please introduce yourself and tell us about what you do. My name is  Marguerite Matthews  and I am a AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow working at the National Institutes of Health in the Office of the Director. Prior to doing science policy work, I was a neuroscience researcher. 2) How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? I learned about the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships during my time in graduate school. Once I knew there was an option to use my scientific research background to learn about and influence federal policymaking, I started seeing the value in my translating my education and training to work outside of the laboratory. I found it quite empowering to know that there was a need to apply my science knowledge to addressing societal challenges. 3) What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning? Having a voice in my work environment, being able to make important contributions to my agency and my community, and working with a passionate group of people excite and inspire me to go to work every day. 4) What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Thanks to therapy, I now prioritize my happiness and mental wellness above all else! So I regularly engage in activities that relax me or that I enjoy, such as spending time with family and friends, getting a manicure, going to the movies. The more I invest in caring for myself, the less stress I experience or tolerate. When it comes to feelings of self-doubt and uncertainty, I often have to remind myself that I am smart, capable, and just flat out dope! Sometimes it takes looking at my CV and/or talking to my mentors and support system to recognize that my experience, my voice, and my work has value. 5) Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? There are many people I admire and who inspire me on my professional journey. My dad, and his love for knowledge and inquiry, is an especially prominent source of inspiration for me as a scientist. However, there is no single person whose life or career I have modeled my own after. Rather, I’ve had a series of people in my life who have helped me realize the goals I’ve set for myself as I have moved along the path to self-discovery of what I want to do professionally. 6) What is your experience of being a woman in the technology industry? Being a woman of color in STEM hasn’t been without its challenges but has largely been a positive experience for me. Almost every mentor I’ve had – male and female – have guided me along the path and taught me how to advocate for myself and to be strong and confident, even when I may be the only one who looks like me in the room. I meet so many women and young girls who are often discouraged from pursuing STEM careers for one reason or another and it saddens me to know that they haven’t had the access to STEM opportunities or mentorship that I have to allow me to flourish and choose based on my own desire and not the presumptions of others. 7) What advice would you give to young women entering the STEM field? BE YOURSELF! Be bold and daring in your pursuit of anything that makes you hunger to learn more. And be assured that there are people out there who want you to succeed and reach your highest potential. Because your authentic-c, curious-, and determined-self is what we need to change and advance science and technology. 8) How do you measure your success? I don’t measure my success, exactly. I set goals for myself and I aim to achieve them. Not achieving any given goal doesn’t necessarily signal lack of “success”. And “failure” can often a sign of progress towards my goal(s). As long as I am growing my expertise, generating new ideas, creating or improving opportunities, all to make contributions to my field and my community, I am succeeding.
Background The purpose of our longitudinal study is to develop ongoing insights into girls studying STEM and women pursuing STEM careers, in response to the continuing statistics evidencing the underrepresentation of women in STEM, stereotypical environments and double standards. Our 2016 survey of 163 women between the ages of 15-46 representing 16 different countries world wide, focused on developing insights into the current experiences of girls studying STEM at college and University, using a mixed methods approach. So far data from our 2016 survey has found significant links between early  childhood interests  and future STEM career plans, the significant  role of unrelated female models  in helping reduce attrition from STEM later on in life,  confidence levels drop in the second year of college, computer Science  has one of the highest attrition rates, and the impact of different subjects and professional confidence in  relation to future plans.  This series analyses the impact of age and country of residence on confidence getting a job in STEM. The bar graph below shows the age scale of participants on the horizontal axis and the average confidence scores of ‘getting a job’ from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest on the vertical axis. Results indicate that professional confidence peaks to a score of 5 in the first year of College at the age of 16 and slowly declines throughout this time period, continuing into the first year of University at the age of 19 reaching a much lower 3.3 confidence level. As our previous research identified this lack of confidence may be correlated with the lack of female role models for young girls to ‘relate’ to, making the STEM environment a more ‘masculine’ place where girls struggle to ‘identify’ and ‘find a place’ thus, in return professional confidence ‘ takes a hit’.  “Actively show stories of women leading successful tech projects, Give them as much attention as male scientists” (participant 111).   After the age of 20, confidence levels ‘pick up’ and stay at an average score of 4 throughout the 20’s. However there is a dip in this confidence of 20% at the age of 28. This may be due partly to limited work life family balance options amongst the STEM profession,  which other research  has acknowledged plays a role in attrition from STEM, particularly amongst women. Furthermore,  other research  suggests girls in College also feel that they will have to ‘give up’ having children for their STEM careers, suggesting that for women they see a trade off between their career in STEM and having a family, they feel the options to do both are lacking. There is another sharp peak in confidence at the age of 32 to a confidence score of 5. A number of interrelating factors here could be contributing to these confidence levels; women in their 30’s may have transitioned careers and have already established their work life balance ‘norms’ giving them more control. It may also be that these women chose not to start a family and as a result have more time to focus on their careers. This isn’t to say women can’t do both, it is possible that different companies and different family dynamics mean women have children and maintain and progress in their career. Women in their 30’s may have worked exceptionally hard to establish their place within the workforce. Future research should explore whether age and confidence levels correlate with length of time in current job. Results from the graph also indicate a sharp decline in participants aged 41 from 5 to 2.5 at 46. Again there are a number of possible factors that need to be explored before making conclusions; Covert sexism, where the masculine nature of the workplace may see even more gender disparity when it comes to women wanting to move up the ranks into senior positions, when the opportunity comes for a promotion research suggests they are more likely to get overlooked for their male counterparts,  more women on the boards and in leadership positions may help address this.   “Equal pay and seeing more female role models in higher ranked positions” (participant 86). Overall these findings would indicate that girls start off with higher confidence in their younger College years and this confidence slowly declines until they reach their 30’s. There are a number of possible interrelating factors which could answer for this; University is more atoned to the male gender, lack of female role models in senior and leadership positions, negative media about STEM professions and gender pay inequality may send a message to women that they are ‘not as good’ resulting in them questioning their own self worth when job hunting compared to their male peers. This series also examined the role of geographical location on confidence getting a job The graph below indicates the geographical locations of our participants. The largest representation is in North America, followed by Europe, Asia, Oceania and Africa. The graph below indicates the average confidence levels of participants by their country of residence,   with the lighter shade of blue indicating the lowest confidence levels and the darkest shade indicating the highest.  Findings suggest that the UK, North America, Mexico, Vietnam and New Zealand have the highest confidence levels followed by Canada, Australia, South Africa, Kenya, India and Indonesia, with the lowest levels reported in Spain. Does this suggest more Western societies are progressing and combating these stereotypes more than their non western counterparts? This may be ‘popular’ belief but in fact our results do not indicate this pattern nor does other research which has found that actually  western and non-western societies do not dictate the level of representation and confidence of women in STEM ; one way to compare gender equality and opportunities for women in STEM is to see statistically their representation across different STEM sectors and graduation from STEM degrees in different Countries. Research has found that some leading western countries have a much lower representation of women in STEM than in Muslim countries, and places like Indonesia (see this  article ).  Therefore this would suggest that countries with the highest confidence levels are those where STEM education is most accessible to women . Reports have indicated that the Higher Educational sector in big economies such as the US, the UK and other parts of Europe have developed a vast amount of different educational routes with an array of programs developed for women’s ‘human centered approach’ such as the ‘Social Sciences’ ‘Nursing’ and ‘Child development’. In comparison, developing and transitional economies where acute shortages of educated workers have in turn prompted efforts by governments and development agencies to increase the supply of STEM workers (see  article ). Therefore to increase confidence this would suggest that more encouragement by the government and policymakers for the uptake of STEM amongst these economies would help in the representation of women in STEM and increase confidence in this sector as a viable option for women to pursue.    “More outreach, more movements, more education” (participant 139).   Encouraging confidence and uptake of STEM College and Universities can help to encourage girls to take part in different preparational activities by holding different open evenings and information talks about different programs they can get involved with. More opportunities for international movement between Universities and job markets in STEM environments may help encourage women to participate whose countries lack incentives and opportunities; more scholarships, grants and internships. Government and policymakers need to make an effort to eliminate barriers for women in STEM and increase incentives for participation in Higher Educational STEM subjects. We can change the future if we work together. This has been the fourth in a series of exploration into the experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Keep an eye out for more posts as we look at other influences affecting women’s careers. Contributors Andrea Lewis, Molly Goodman, Raiya Al-Ansari,
Swati Patankar Qualification:  BSc, PhD, Professor at IIT Bombay Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), is recognised worldwide as a leader in the field of engineering education and research IIT Bombay has 17 departments, 13 multi-disciplinary centres, and 3 schools of excellence. The annual Science & Technology festival of IIT Bombay, Techfest, which was started in 1998, is held in the month of December every year and is Asia's largest science and tech festival. Email ID:   patankar@iitb.ac.in Achievements:  Research grants for 15 years, Teaching Awards Interviewer is  Lavanya , a High School STEM student in Dhirubhai Ambani International School, Mumbai. She wishes to major in Engineering. She is happy and proud to pursue STEM and is passionate about propagating STEM among girls. When you were college ready, what motivated you to select the science stream? Was it something you knew you wanted to do? Yes, I knew I wanted to do biology when I was ready for college. What did you obtain your basic degree in? Life Sciences After receiving a basic degree in Life Sciences, what persuaded you to take up scientific research instead of medicine which most girls tend to lean towards? My father is a physicist and my mother has a PhD in education so the "research" career was already being done in my family. My sister was good at English Literature but she got into medicine and did that. So my family let us choose whatever we liked. Can you recall any eureka moments in your career or any epiphanies? Yes, when I saw some interesting data and realized that in the malaria parasite, there is both sense and anti-sense RNA. Do you mentor anyone? If yes, who do you mentor? I mentor all my students, MSc and PhD. I have also taken high school students in my lab for short projects (only girls) and mentored them as well as Bachelors level students. Having guided several science students, have you observed anything of special merit in STEM girls? They really love science and have sometimes even gone against their family traditions to do what they love. Also, many of them grab the opportunities given to them and work really well, learn a lot in the lab. Any advice you would like to share with STEM girls? Be more confident! Any advice you'd like to give your 18 year old self? Don't be scared of failures! You will learn more from them than success. Where can we find out more about your work? http://www.bio.iitb.ac.in/~patankar/new/  
The purpose of our longitudinal study is to develop ongoing insights into girls studying STEM and women pursuing STEM careers, in response to the continuing statistics evidencing the underrepresentation of women in STEM, stereotypical environments and double standards. Our 2016 survey of 163 women between the ages of 15-46 representing 16 different countries world wide, focused on developing insights into the current experiences of girls studying STEM at college and University, using a mixed methods approach. Previous series have found links between the impact of early childhood interests and how they affect the pursuit of STEM careers in the future ( please see our previous blog ) and how higher education affects a woman’s interest and confidence in STEM ( see our previous blog ) Following on from our previous 2016 findings, this series analyses  the relationship between different preparation activities girls undertake related to their STEM careers with their 10 year plans and confidence ‘getting a job’. Preparation and 10 year plan Graph 1 shows the relationship between different preparation activities on the horizontal axis and 10 year career plans on the vertical axis; the pink bar indicates the percentage of girls who predict they will be in a STEM career in 10 years and the green bar indicates the percentage of girls who predict they will be in a non STEM career. Results from Graph 1 indicate that girls who undertake preparations in the form of research and enrollment onto programmes are around 10% and 12% respectively more likely to pursue a STEM career in the future compared to girls who undertake preparations in the form of interview practice, attending seminars and conferences, studying for STEM and taking part in volunteer and internship opportunities. Participants expressed their concern for creating more programs focused on young girls; “Have more programs aimed at the youth” suggesting that Schools and Colleges could provide more opportunities for young girls to get involved with STEM; introducing coding clubs, women ‘role model’  guest speakers and promoting general awareness and exposure to different STEM subjects. In the long run, these early influences could foster stronger STEM identities in women helping to retain them in STEM careers. Furthermore  results indicate that overall preparations for STEM are a good protective factor against attrition from STEM in later life,  with more than 60% of girls who take part in preparational activities in total having plans to stay in STEM careers. The findings may suggest that those girls who invest more time into preparation such as carrying out research activities are less likely to deviate away from STEM careers in the future.  These initial insights suggest that girls should be encouraged to take part in different preparations regarding STEM.  Preparations and Confidence Graph 2 shows the relationship between the different preparations and the perceived confidence levels of girls ‘getting a job’ in STEM. The horizontal axis indicates the confidence scores and the vertical axis indicates the preparational activity using the colour keyed circles. Research suggests  that low ‘Professional’ confidence is a contributing factor causing attrition from STEM. Interestingly the results in graph 2 indicate a  significant association between different preparations and confidence ‘getting a job’ . ‘Interview practice’ as a preparation activity is associated with the least confidence, with ‘programs’ being 25% more likely to be associated with confidence in getting a job compared to interview practice, with an average score of 4.2 out of 5. Moreover,  women emphasised their concern that more programs need to be made available to help encourage young girls “There should be more accessible programs for girls at younger ages and more well-rounded visibility and representation of women in STEM fields in media“ further adding substance to the argument that society needs to be targeting STEM interest at a young age in girls, which may help build their confidence over time and suggests that media representation may hold some accountability for the confidence levels in women. Although more companies are starting to realise the benefit of employing more women in the field (see how Microsoft’s  #MakeWhatsNext  and Google’s  madewithcode  are helping to nurture young female talent with initiatives) there is still a long way to go.    ‘Volunteering/internships’ were also significantly positively correlated with confidence  with an average score of 4.1 out of 5, with one participant emphasizing the importance of internships in creating a more structured career focus, “Internships. Internships. I can’t stress that enough. Getting hands-on experience can be the make-or-break when deciding what field one wants to pursue”.  Research was also expressed as one of the most significant preparation methods increasing confidence scoring around 4.1 out of 5 , which would suggest that increasing more funding and flexibility for women pursuing research in STEM would help improve confidence and lower attrition, with participants further suggesting “in STEM fields, increased grants and scholarships will entice more females”, “Scholarships/funding for women to take postgraduate courses” as key areas that could be improved to encourage future generations of women to pursue STEM as a career.  This would suggest that ‘programs’ and ‘research’ play an important role in both attrition and confidence.   These findings may be explained using ‘investment theory’  in that preparations which involve a large amount of sacrifice and investment with regards to time make it less likely to deviate from this path even in circumstances that are adverse, thus possibly acting as a protective factor against the adverse effects to women’s confidence with regards to stereotypes and ‘masculine’ environments.  Encouraging more women to continue studying STEM   College and Universities can help to encourage girls to take part in different preparational activities by holding different open evenings and information talks about different programmes they can get involved with. Increasing the awareness and accessibility of internships and volunteering opportunities for girls. This can be achieved through social media and student unions at college and universities where students can access different opportunities. More research opportunities for girls to get involved in at College and University. Extra curricular activities could focus on research skills and helping students develop their own interests and small independent projects.  We can change the future if we work together. This has been the third in a series of exploration into the experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Keep an eye out for more posts as we look at other influences affecting women’s careers. Contributors Andrea Lewis, Raiya Al-Ansari, Molly Goodman
Diah works as a Procurement Officer in a gas company. During the interview she emphasized the importance of being surrounded by a great team. Who are you what do you do? Hello! I’m Diah. I studied cyberpsychology. But right now I’m working in a gas company, joining the cool gang of the Procurement Team. :) How did you arrive at this career? Was it always something you knew you wanted to do? Hmmm.. nothing exciting actually. I was in the marketing division and there’s a rotation in our company. Then I was put in Procurement. There’s no clear connection from what I’ve learned with what I do now. But you know, as long as you have a great team and a great boss who supports your learning process, you’ll feel you can do almost everything. :) What about your job makes you jump out of bed in the morning, especially on those cold, dark winter mornings? We don’t have winter here in Indonesia. Hahaha but I know what you meant. Well, as I said, a solid team and a great boss to lead. There are always problems everyday. But with a great team work, we can always tackle big problem easily. What is your personal cure for stress or how do you raise your spirits in times of doubt? Can you share a Story? Talking to people of course. I have lots of friends and interesting people around me. If I couldn’t find one, I will go travel to another part of Indonesia, go meet fishes and talk to them.. no.. I’m kidding, I don’t talk fish-language, I mean I’ll talk to local people (you know Indonesia is a country full of diversity, home to numerous different ethnic groups, languages and religions). Or If I don’t feel like meeting/talking to people, a book is always be a good companion. Who is your role model? If no one, any thoughts on this? Whoa. It’s difficult to choose one. There are so many great people out there. It wouldn't be fair if I choose one.  But I wonder why Mahatma Gandhi popped on my mind when I read this question. Maybe because there are too many violent acts happening in Indonesia now, or maybe the world? So I admire him very much for his movement <3 What advice would you give to your 18 year old self? “Oh you know you’ll be fine.” How do you measure your success? “The true measure of success is how many times you can bounce back from failure” - Stephen Richards
There are still comparatively few women working in science and technology.  Recent studies  show that only 23% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professionals are women, and 27% of these are likely to leave their job within the first year. So, why aren’t more women entering and remaining in science and technology? What’s causing this gender gap? Geeky Girl Reality is a longitudinal, independent research project looking at how women’s experiences influence their interests in science and technology. We’re drawing on data from a spring 2016 survey of 163 women between the ages of 15-46 from 16 countries around the world. From their stories, we learn about the effects women’s experiences have on their pursuit of higher education in science, technology, engineering, and maths. We have discovered some interesting insights. Having a plan To start, we’ll take a look at our participants’  early life experiences and how their plans are affected by their childhood interests or mentors . Our data indicates that career paths are influenced very early on by childhood interests. One participant said that, “One of the main reasons why I am so involved in math and CS [Computer Science] now is because I was exposed to both subjects at a very young age.” This trend can be seen from the bar graph below, which compares our survey participants’ childhood interests to their 10-year plans. On the horizontal axis, each childhood interest is listed along with a bar representing the corresponding 10-year plan responses. The pink bars are the percentages of women planning to pursue a STEM career; the green bars are the percentages of women planning to pursue a non-STEM career, or there was no indication of a career plan. Those who had technology or science-based childhood interests were more likely to  plan for a science or tech career At least 52% of respondents with an interest in technology or science as a child had a 10-year plan involving a STEM career. This rose to 76% for those with an affinity for tech. The 33% of young women who lacked exposure to science or technology said they were more likely to go into other areas instead. Having a mentor Childhood interests were not the only early life factors affecting their career choices.  Mentors also played an important role in their plans for the future.  According to one of our participants, “[My mentor] has taught me a lot about being a woman out in the real world and has helped me choose what I want to do.” We can see this by comparing their mentors (on the horizontal axis) to their 10-year plans. More than half of women with no mentor or with an unrelated male mentor did not plan to pursue a STEM career. By contrast, women with an unrelated female mentor were the most likely to pursue STEM, with 68% of them indicating a STEM-related career plan. It appears that  women are most encouraged when they have another successful woman as an inspiration.  It’s possible that male mentors are not as easy to relate to, and made them feel like they didn’t belong in the relevant fields. Getting more women interested in STEM careers There are a number of steps we can take to get more women in science and tech: Talk to young girls about science and tech to give them the opportunity to explore those subjects from a younger age. Encourage the women you know to become mentors for other women and girls who are just starting out on their career paths. If you’re a woman in science or tech, consider becoming a mentor yourself. Establish a mentorship program within your organization to empower female employees in science and tech. Implement more science and tech courses in early education to increase young girls’ exposure to these fields. We can change the future if we work together. This has just been the start of our exploration into the experiences of women in science, technology, engineering, or maths. Keep an eye out for more posts as we look at other influences affecting women’s careers. Contributors Andrea Lewis, Sabah Rahman, Raiya Al-Ansari References: Cruz, E. (2016, July 27). The Gap Between Women and Men in STEM and What You Can Do About It [Web log post].
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