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Twitter Space: Women is STEM
Welcome to this Symbaloo Twitter Space. To celebrate Women's History Month we sat down with Niamh Brady & Jillian Johnson to discuss Women in STEM.
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What is the importance of Women in STEM?
Jillian: Women bring unique talents and perspectives that are otherwise missed. When a male dominates it, we need that diversity, especially for what STEM does—looking for that greater innovation. And I don’t think that will happen easily if you limit the experiences or the talents involved in that problem-solving challenge. It requires diversity.
Niamh: I agree. That perspective gives another dimension to the STEM world. And I also think that if children and students see women in STEM, they have role models to admire and look up to, and they can see that a future in STEM is possible for women too.
Michelle: Absolutely, I like the route you both took, by taking a different career path later in life, which is also great to talk to young women about. Especially in America, there is a certain way in education that you have to take, and by the age of eighteen, you have to decide what you want to do for the rest of your life. And if some young women become teachers later in life, they don’t have to study any STEM subjects in college. There are certain avenues you can take.
Jillian: Right, and we don’t know about those until we see them. You need to see it on screen or hear about those avenues from your friends or cousins. You need that awareness and visibility to expand our perceptions of it.
Niamh: I took the scenic route, even in teaching. You learn a lot more and have more life experiences, and eventually, you are introduced to multiple options. And it is no problem if you do not dive into one particular route, and you can expand into different areas if you take some detours.
What advice would you give to young women pursuing a career in STEM?
Jillian: I think it just gets back to that authenticity. Just having them be themselves. This is the case with any career, not exclusive to STEM fields, but imagine our worlds if everyone was not trying to conform a certain way. They expressed that a unique part of them sets them apart from others. That authenticity has to be respected in order to allow real innovation to develop, with whatever challenge that is related to. And STEM does a fantastic job in approaching those challenges and figuring out an innovative way to get through them.
Niamh: I just tell girls never to give up and put themselves out there. STEM is all about failures, the first try, the first conclusions, and the learning you get. It is all about trying and learning from your mistakes. And that is what problem-solving and debugging are all about. Now in Ireland, there are loads of opportunities to come into STEM. There are a lot of after-school STEM classes and clubs. It is fantastic that this is available nowadays. So get out there and see what opportunities there are for you right now. And don’t be afraid.
Jillian: There is so much more awareness right now than if you look back 15 years ago, when I was in school, and I wish those things were available. Who knows what path I would have taken if I did go that route? Seeing those other women out there, just having more opportunities to see what women can do and how well they can do it.
Michelle: I think our younger generations, such as millennials and Gen Z. We are doing more that we want to do in life and taking those different routes. Which I think is cool. These generations are growing increasingly into male-oriented careers and jobs, and I think we will see many more women in different careers than we have been before, STEM included. But things also change as we grow, and maybe the thing you studied in college is not what you love as much now. Maybe you want to go back and study something entirely different.
Niamh: It is never too late to dive into an area of interest, and I have no regrets that I did go back into my studies, and I am delighted that I did get into STEM. I always had that question: what is life when you are in that area?
Jillian: I think there is a little reward in doing something that is not typical. That was part of my motivation to get into STEM as well. Like “What? Is nobody doing that? Well, I wanna do that!” Not to say the gender gap will go away with more awareness and opportunities for girls. There is a difference there, but we are definitely in the right direction. It is going to be interesting how things unfold.