By: Ashley Smith
The purpose of this website, STEM Women on Fire, is to be a tool for girls and women of all ages to learn from the experiences of others and to figure out what’s right for them. Myself and the other members of the Ultimate Mentor Leadership Council have been working on collecting interviews and advice from various women in all forms of STEM careers. Very few women will tell you that they always knew what they were going to do one day. Most will tell you that what they are doing now is not what they thought they would. Each of our interviewees have grown to become the women they are today from the experiences that they have encountered throughout their lives. Each and every one of the women on this site have made themselves be the image that they want to be. When girls get to high school they already have an image set in their minds of who they believe they should be. In today’s world, thanks to the media, that image is largely centered around beauty. Many kids will look at STEM as a boy thing, a nerd thing, something they could never do, something that they aren't smart enough for. The last two thoughts are some of the most common thoughts that go through a girls head when she thinks of STEM. Many girls feel this way, there was even a time when I was one of those girls, when i didn't think i was smart enough to do something like join my school’s robotics team. My freshman year, the day of the first robotics meeting, i stood outside the classroom for 5 minutes debating whether or not I should go in. I had no prior knowledge that would help me and I knew no one else on the team. I ended up deciding to go in and three years later I am proudly running for president of the team. Taking chances is one of the best ways to learn and as students it’s our job to learn as much as we can now to prepare us for our futures. The experiences, knowledge and friends i have made on this team are things that i will have with me for the rest of my career. Right now, I am an aspiring Electrical Engineer, however, in 10 years i can’t tell you what ill be doing because I have no idea. What I do know is that I love STEM, and I want to spread the magic of it to as many people as possible.
Did you know that Natalie Portman, who plays Jane Foster in Marvel’s Thor, is a scientist who went to Harvard and spent a lot of time investigating a new, ‘environmentally friendly’, method of converting waste into useful forms of energy? I didn't either until one day when I saw a article about her on Facebook. Instead of taking me to the article (which was rather upsetting) it took me to the Ultimate Mentor Adventure Contest which is what brought all 10 of us together. We all entered, proceeded to win and went on an adventure of a lifetime together. This adventure that my friends and I participated in changed the way each of us look at STEM. Personally, I see STEM as a hallway of doors. Each door leading to something new and different. (That article about Natalie is a perfect example of one of those hidden doors.) There are so many applications and branches of STEM that that hallway will go on forever each door leading to more. STEM is about opportunity and making choices. This website is here to help you make some of those choices and to help give girls and women the courage they need to open that first door. I have had so many doors open to me because I have a passion for STEM and I have gained the courage and curiosity to want to go and see the possibilities of all of them.
STEM isn't for everyone, but you will never know if it is for you unless you join that club or you take that class. Some people already know what they love and all I can hope for is that they have the courage to go for it. If I could leave you with one piece of advice, it’s that, the first step is always the hardest and that there will always be problems and pitfalls along the way, but if you can get past them, and keep moving forward you will reach your goals. Whether its to become a Scientist, Technician, Engineer, Mathematician or whatever it is that you want to be, no one can tell you otherwise.