As a woman, I have always felt somewhat ostracized in my career choices, my school career, and just in my personal life. I felt as if I was never taken completely seriously, and I felt as if even other women didn't take women seriously. When I started to become more serious in my career path, this was apparent.
In middle school, I would attend various educational camps, such as Writing camp, Coding camp (females only), and an Engineering camp. In the writing camp, people tended to be more open-minded, so I always felt comfortable there. But when it came to the coding camp or engineering camp, things were different.
I really wanted to be a coder when I was in middle school. I took my summer coding camps seriously; when I walked in and sat down at the computer to practice what they taught us, I meant business. I tried my best, and I liked it. But the other girls never took it seriously like me.
They were only there because their parents made them go, and it was apparent. Some would sit on their phones and let their partner struggle with the project alone, they would talk to each other and completely disregard what they should have been doing, or they would do the slightest work for the project but have it be something completely random. I never really had friends in that camp, because the girls would usually think I was just some nerd, a weirdo who was actually interested in this stuff. Which I didn't mind, I've always proudly considered myself as a weird nerd, but I'm a weird nerd who cares.
I don't know if their lack of caring was because of their immaturity, or because coding is a male-dominated field and they were too intimidated to be surrounded by that pressure. I feel like the immaturity was a cop-out though, so they could act as if this was something they didn't even do in the first place. Or maybe they just didn't want to do it. Either way, these were young women who were against me because I was interested in something that they weren't, or were too scared to be.
When I got to high school, I decided that coding is great but I wanted the ability to be more creative (in a less detail-oriented way), so engineering it was. I toured NC State around twelve dozen times, and I was for real about being an engineer. Considering the fact that 11% of engineers in North Carolina are female, I knew it would sometimes be unequal. But I didn't expect what happened at the camp. The first day of the co-ed engineering camp, I walk into a conference room filled with at least a hundred people.
10 of them were girls.
Before I continue, I should indulge you with the information that as a kid, I was always on co-ed sports teams. The thing about this is that most parents don't want their little girls playing sports with boys, because that may be "potentially dangerous". But I didn't care. The only thing that wasn't so great would be how the boys wouldn't really pass to me or include me. The great thing about sports though, is that in the heat of the moment, you have limited choices. So they would eventually have to use me.
Throughout the camp, I would have some difficulties. First off, the leaders would kind of isolate girls in one of two ways: either you would be put into a group with only girls, or you would be the only girl in a group. Either of these is not an ideal situation because an all-girl group does not represent real life at all, and just like the coding camp, you may be stuck with girls who were immature, uninterested, or intimidated.
The other option (being the only girl in a group), was also difficult. The guys wouldn't listen to you, or they would be condescending towards you, or try to hit on you. I would try to work with them, and come up with ideas and share it with them, but they would either not listen or re-state my idea as their own. I would usually just kind of do my own project, by myself.
Of course, now, my interests have changed as I've aged. But the point of my telling you all this is this: I never stopped pursuing a career in the STEM field, no matter the challenges I faced. Even though they were small, they were a simplified resemblance of what I would have to deal with in the real world.
Growing up, my father always told me that there's nothing more important than working hard, and if you do work hard, there is nothing that can stop you from doing whatever you want to do. As a young woman in this oppressive world, I think that is the most important message to keep with you at all times.
If you work hard, no matter the challenge, you will be able to achieve anything you want to. A challenge only becomes an obstacle when you let it bar you from moving forward. So will you live your life growing from overcoming challenges, or will you let obstacles shackle you?