Founder and CEO, Vantage Point
When I was 21, a male colleague who put in less than half the hours I did was making twice the salary “because he negotiated better” (his words). As I began to seek out female role models and mentors, I saw the lack of women in positions I wanted to hold and the lack of women in STEM careers.
Thankfully, we are now in our third wave of feminism. Wall Street placed a Fearless Girl statue, ready to take on the world, in the center of a space known for its toxic masculinity. We have all-female hackathons such as AthenaHacks (USC) and ByteHacks (Spotify), which serve to provide safe and inclusive spaces for women to learn STEM.
But for the number of women entering STEM to actually trend upwards in a meaningful way, we need to shift the narratives and perceptions that permeate our culture around what it means to be a woman in STEM.
The old adage reads, “if you can see it, you can believe it.” But today, only 7 percent of women study STEM, only 1 percent of technology CEOs are women, and only one woman was included on Forbes’ 2019 list of 100 innovative leaders.
I remember telling fellow female founder Shivani Soraya, “I don’t think I can do it. I don’t see anybody else who looks like me.”
“Look at me – I did it,” Shivani replied. That moment marked an early point in my journey of starting a company. I had someone I could point to and say, “if she can do it, I can too.”
The #LightASpark campaign empowers young girls to consider a career in STEM by introducing them to less conventional STEM careers. Trust me, there are a lot you were never introduced to in school. I’m part of Light a Spark because I want to be the role model, mentor, and coach that I needed as a young woman. I want to show young women that stereotypes are limiting belief systems and falsified illusions. You can be whoever you are and look however you want and still do whatever it is you set out to do.
When we start to shift perceptions around what it means to be a woman in STEM, then a day will come where “the future is female” comes to fruition.