On November 1st, I had the amazing opportunity of giving a TEDx talk at The Woodlands School in Mississauga. My talk was centred around empowering girls in STEM, and the importance of every individual having a passion. I am extremely grateful for this platform, and appreciate the ability it has given me to share my story with those who are committed to making a difference.
From a young age, I always loved STEM and coming to school was one way in which I could express this passion. I enjoyed learning alongside my peers and teachers, and being guided in the ‘right’ direction. Being young, I had always assumed that all of my classmates felt the same way and that they too shared the same passion that I had; I thought that we were all the same. This lasted until one day in the first grade when a classmate brought up my “weirdly dark” skin tone. I had never looked at the colour of my skin so critically until that day, and realized that I had assumed that my appearance mirrored what I saw in front of me. What I also did not realize was that my classmates had and would continue to see me for my differences than for what made us the same. This realization made me refrain from showing my curiosity and embracing who I was, even leading me to think that if I had scrubbed my skin hard enough the colour would just wash out. My peers influence made me believe I was dirty, and it took me until a few years ago to realize that they were wrong.
In grade 7, I entered my first science fair, the Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair known as BASEF. I had worked on my project for eight long months, putting in as many hours as possible and perfecting my presentation. After presenting my project to the judges, I finally realized how much I truly loved science and how motivated in made me in my everyday to become a better person. My success at BASEF allowed me to travel to the Canada-Wide Science Fair held in Regina, Saskatchewan. With the same mindset as BASEF, I approached Canada-Wide judging openly and to my surprise, won a bronze medal for my efforts. So, I guess it was safe to say that the eight months I spent in the lab, the long nights researching and preparing my speeches for the judges and the energy I put into my project had paid off. Or did it? Looking back, I do not remember the fair just for the medal hanging from my neck in the pictures or the ability to hold my head high when returning home. It was the people I met from all across the nation, the STEM-driven environment I was immersed in for a full week and the opportunity I had to learn from other students projects that I remember. They did not see me as the “coloured girl in the class” like my other classmates had, but rather, they saw me for the work I did and who I was. It was this which gave me my newfound passion and while exposing me to the one of the world’s most prominent barriers; girls in STEM.
You never see a need for something you had until it’s gone. Growing up immersed in science, I was not able to see the barriers between girls and STEM. As I grew older, I saw less and less girls paying attention in science class, fewer girls in science fair and more boys asking me why I liked the subject. But this was just my experience. For other youth, they were raised to believe that women only had a place in the kitchen. They were not even given the choice or the time to consider this a possibility. I, on the other hand, feel extremely lucky that I was given the opportunity to even consider STEM as a possible career path. Because of my parents and their positive upbringing of me, I found what I was passionate about and now want to help young girls realize that a job in science is waiting for them. This is why I wanted to share my story with the TEDx community. I believe that girls in science is an Idea Worth Spreading, and I hope for young girls to realize that science IS for them. My passion for science has provided me with opportunities I never knew of, and I hope for other girls to understand that they are not alone in crossing these barriers. Having attended national and international science fairs, conversing with female participants almost always originates into the topic of girls and STEM and the ways in which we can convince girls to participate. The methods that the media portrays girls does not have to be right. The countless societal norms you are told to obey do not have to define who you are and what you can do. Instead, we can work towards a day where we would all benefit if our society became unbounded.