(Photo courtesy of Vivian Wang)
Valencia High School

Message to my next president: Make STEM more equitable and accessible for women

Dear future president,

The classroom feels cold and unfamiliar each day that I walk into my third-period class: computer science. Last year, only 15% of my class identified as female.

Young students who are told to draw a picture of a scientist or a programmer all think of the same image: an old man in a white lab coat for a scientist and a young man wearing a hoodie hunched over his laptop for a computer programmer.

Only approximately 25% of STEM-oriented careers are powered by those who identify as a woman; however, the United States STEM gender gap represents more than a statistic. Women have a story to tell, but unfortunately, we’re mansplained in meetings and looked down upon when we have an interesting approach to coding the next big mobile app.

Women, especially women of color, have been underrepresented in STEM careers, and now is the time that we do better.

I propose that we foster an equitable, inclusive environment, both inside and outside of schools. In schools, more young women should have opportunities to explore STEM classes such as computer science so that they feel welcomed in such a male-dominated environment. Hosting mentor talks led by prominent female tech leaders who can share their stories of adversity and success will resonate with a young woman so much more than a pamphlet of class offerings.

Outside of schools, more STEM enrichment programs should be available to young women regardless of their financial standing.

Generation Z is the generation of change; I’m confident that by providing more opportunities and an early exposure to STEM to those who identify as a woman, we can bridge the STEM gender gap and we’ll finally (and proudly!) see the next female CEO of the next big tech company representing all the female STEMinists out there.

 

All the very best,

Vivian Wang

Valencia High School

Orange County, Calif.