Fourteen-year-old Samantha Godinez fell in love with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) as a third grader, but her fellow classmates weren’t impressed. “I remember my peers telling me that it was weird for a girl to like science,” Samantha says.

Double standards

Samantha didn’t let that reaction derail her, even when it morphed into something else by middle school. “Whenever I would elaborate on a subject that we were just taught or if I answered too many questions, people saw this as snarky or proclaimed me to be a show-off,” Samantha explains. “When a male peer extended his answer to fit every detail of the question, he was praised. I and countless girls are not looking to impress anyone with our love of STEM; we are sharing it.”

Double standards aren’t the only problem. “I’d also like to bring attention to how little representation female scientists, engineers, mathematicians, etc. get in our textbooks,” Samantha says. “I personally believe if we show young girls that it’s normal to be a woman and in STEM, more would become interested in it.”

"'All of us loved STEM, and I took joy in the fact that we all had that in common.'"

Tech camp

Samantha had the opportunity to meet STEM professionals at an AAUW Tech Trek camp. The weeklong camps for middle school girls are held on college campuses in nearly a dozen states. The program’s founder, Marie Wolbach, is a recipient of the prestigious Jefferson Award, known as the Nobel Prize for public and community service. Wolbach, who was the only girl in her physics class, started the camp nearly 20 years ago with the idea that girls can achieve and excel in male-dominated fields.

It’s a message not lost on the next generation. “All of us loved STEM, and I took joy in the fact that we all had that in common,” Samantha says about her 2014 camp experience at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “We talked about our aspirations, and we all respected each other’s wants for the future. It was so amazing to be around such a supportive crowd.”