Science, bro

Opportunity or obligation in the generation of gender


Circuit-building toy kits for him. An Easy Bake Oven for me. Legos with a programmable robot for him. Polly Pockets for me. A science lab in a box for him complete with plastic vials and mysterious liquids that I was not invited to touch.

I rarely experimented with the many toys branded for boys, so now I explore as much as I can. The age for choosing a career path looms, and I frantically consider if engineering or computer science is for me.

To discover new interests, I applied for an internship this past summer. Conscious that I was probably an under-qualified candidate, I did not expect to get accepted, and I was right, but I expected another girl to. Other females had applied to the internship, so there should have been at least one who got the position. Just one. When a bundle of only-male students were accepted into the internship, I felt it was my duty to do more.

This realization instilled in me a revived motivation to break barriers, shatter the glass ceiling and defy odds by diving into a STEM-related activity, so I could live up to that fiery feminist image.

And then I have to pause. Because maybe a career in STEM is not what I want, it’s what I’m supposed to want.

I question whether I am doing it for me or for the cause of women in STEM.

An obligation to go into a STEM field charms me. I hear about the advocates encouraging women in STEM, and I want to establish myself as this ambitious female on the hunt for technically rigorous science opportunities while balancing my admiration for the arts. This feeling leads me to place pressure on myself to do all the science and math I can, but do I have to choose? Robotics or glass blowing?

Silicon Valley is for coders and tech engineers and I feel the need to live up to that reputation, so I set aside urges to take art classes and fulfill the expectation to make strides toward equality in careers, and I do not spend time thinking about the other futures I could pursue. Now every time I venture into the world of equations and numbers, I question whether I am doing it for me or for the cause of women in STEM.

If I spent time with plastic screwdrivers or beakers when I was younger with nimble hands and a mind unburdened by the pressure to start a career, perhaps I would not have to challenge my passion for art as nothing more than a curiosity that must be overcome.

I do not expect every girl to go into a STEM field, not even myself. I just expect everyone to have the opportunity to from the beginning.