As a woman in STEM, it can be hard to feel like I belong. My fellow female computer scientists have told me about interactions they have had where others have assumed men were the only ones who could do Computer Science. I have had moments where I feel like I am screaming to be heard. In almost every class I have taken, I have arrived on the first day feeling unsure of what I was supposed to know already. That feeling would only get worse when my classmates—usually men—talked about software and algorithms and concepts I’d never heard of as if they were common knowledge. No one asked them to explain, so I thought I was the idiot who didn’t belong.
Men have historically dominated STEM fields. The thought was that women weren’t smart enough to tackle those tough subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math. Women were barred from studying them and securing jobs in those fields, or they were undervalued and overlooked.
But with each day that goes by, more women join these fields and prove exactly how smart they are. Stories like the one Hidden Figures (2016) is based on show that women in STEM are not a new thing—what’s new is that people finally recognize it. Organizations like Girls Who Code help women gain confidence and succeed in Computer Science. Women have more than earned their place in STEM, and the world needs to accept that and stop holding them to unrealistic standards.
As I enter my last year of college, I have learned that you don’t have to know everything to belong. If you can find your niche, then you will be okay. The people in my classes talking about things I didn’t know had researched them on their own time because they were interested. It wasn’t that I had missed something; it was that we simply had different passions and strengths. So while someone else might thrive on data structures and machine learning, I’ll stick with mastering programming languages, trying out 3D printing, and finding ways to combine my love of writing with technology.
I love Computer Science. I won’t let anyone try to take that away from me.