It seems that a lot of guys see female-specific awards, especially for the sciences, as an event to help the underdogs out. And some women too. But it’s really not; if you think about it, these fields aren’t male dominated because men are just better at them. They’re typically male dominated because women tend to not have an interest in them. And there are many reasons for that. But there also are a lot of women who are interested in science fields.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in stark minority, but it can be really daunting.
In order to do fix this (ideally, we shouldn’t even view one ‘different’ person as a minority), we have to fight against the boundaries already set in place. And to do that, we sometimes need specific awards for those who might otherwise be discouraged. And not because of their ability.
Here’s what I mean: On Sunday, I went to Oregon’s NCWIT awards ceremony (hover over NCWIT; and click the link to read my previous blog post on it). There, I got to see 21 girls and 2 teachers get recognition for their (general awesomeness and) interest and accomplishments in science and technology. And I talked to a couple of them.
Being a guy, and having taken several CS and programming and robotics classes when I was in high school, I knew several of the people in those classes (mostly guys). And just about all of them don’t compare to the two girls I talked to.
I’m not saying guys aren’t as cool as girls. I’m saying nobody is as cool as these girls.
Update: Here is a link to a pdf file of the awards program. In it you can read the profiles of all 23 winners (two of them are teachers).
Rashele Raber is a senior at North Salem HS. And just got accepted to RIT over in New York (a hardcore tech school), because that’s just how she rolls. With confidence beaming from behind her glasses, she told me about how she’s already got 16 credits at Chemeketa CC, through her high school classes—several of which are CS-related. She’s also taking every honors course available to her.
She went on to talk about the Tech Conference in her area. Something which is entirely student-run. In fact, she was the student in charge of the whole thing. In the tech conference, students teach other students about various computer skills: programming, web-design, virus protection, and the like. Not just the basics like how to turn it on and ‘log in to firefox to check email,’ but real computer things. And she oversaw the whole affair. Like a boss.
Heard of OGPC? This year is going to be the fourth annual OGPC event. Rashele will be going to it. It will be her fourth time going. Last year, her team won the game-design award. It’s just how she rolls.
Manali Paralkar is a senior at Tigard HS, where’s she’s an IB diploma candidate. She’s been doing robotics competitions such as FRC and FTC for years, because robotics is right up her alley, and relevant to her interests. And she knows what she wants. She’s going to become a biomedical engineer. You know, the people who fix people with robots. Missing a leg? She’ll build you a new one and connect it to your brain.
But Manali knows doing this might be hard. That’s why she’s taken every chance possible to get experience in those fields.
That’s why she took an internship with Vernier (who happened to sponsor the NCWIT awards, by the way), helping with the polishing of a book of several projects. She helped by doing the projects in the book and seeing how they turned out. And just for fun, she also converted a LEGO Mindstorm program into LabVIEW, a programming platform designed to help scientists and doctors control their very precise instruments. Or, say, to help a person control their prosthetic limb. But that wasn’t enough for Manali. She also took another internship at OHSU, where she worked in 3d echocardiography. Yep—two internships before she’s out of high school.
And now, both of these girls are $100 richer, because they both won the regional NCWIT award. The money isn’t inspiring though. And the plaque they both received is cool as well, but this means a lot. These two along with the other 19 regional winners have instant bonus points on any resume they ever write.
They can all say something along the lines of, “I am woman, hear me roar do science.”
Updates to come:
- Pictures will be added when available