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Through the Lens: Women in STEM by Callie Smith



Why do we tear other people down?
Why not encourage people to go further with their goals and ambitions?

Our society is driven by competition: male and female competition is most significant.

Who can do a better job?

Can we go beyond gender and just say THIS PERSON HAS GREAT QUALITIES AND IS WILLING TO WORK?

My name is Callie Smith, and I am a rising Junior at Troy University. I am pursuing a physical therapy degree and plan to attend medical school to get my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. As you can imagine, I take almost every science you could think of at school. In addition, I am required to take lab classes three hours long, where we run experiments and examine cadavers. It's not easy being a female in the STEM field, but I am proud to be working towards something that I am so interested in, and that will allow me to help people.


Filling a Beaker Story:


I walked into my lab, and I was in a class with a bunch of girls who were in sororities, so they naturally grouped with people they knew through greek life. All that was left was a group of three guys. Our labs started to get to where there was more expected of you. If you did the lab alone, it would have taken all day, so working by myself was not an option. So I had to work with this group to finish the lab in the span of three hours.


When discussing roles for the lab, they would automatically give me lesser roles. For example, they wouldn't let me control the lab equipment. When my partner would come in and see me working, he would snatch equipment out of my hands and tell me I wasn't doing it right. I was in there ready to get the job done and get out. I read up on the lab procedures beforehand to make the most of my time and finish the report as quickly as possible. Once you got the lab done, you could leave, so it was like a race against the clock. No one wants to be stuck in a lab for three hours!


Difficult Moments In My STEM Classes:

  • I would be measuring things and using equipment, and my partner would snatch them out of my hands and tell me I wasn't doing it right. Because I was trying to get things done and get out, I let them do whatever. I thought getting in a fight with these people would not help me because I was stuck in this group for the rest of the semester. When I felt offended by their treatment of me, I would say, "I did read the procedure, so I know what I'm doing."

  • We were logging on to this computer software to enter experiment information. My group crowded around my computer to enter the information for a graph. It was crucial to remember to save and have the correct data, or you would have to restart. The tone of voice used against me to boss me around was extraordinarily condescending and off-putting. They commanded me to do different tasks. "Plug this in," "do this," and "check your work." It was undeniable that they treated me differently because I am a female. They would not talk to each other this way. Their communication was rude and short when it came to telling me what to do.

  • Everyone had a job, and mine was filling the beakers with chemicals. They followed me around, and every time I filled a beaker, they would take it from me and check that the amount was at the correct line. They would not double-check each other because there seemed to be a lot of trust between them, but when it came to me, they would always feel the need to make me feel small and check my work. In my mind, I was always thinking, "I know how to fill up a beaker- I've done this since high school!"

  • They would never clean up the lab stations. They left messes for me to clean. I guess in their minds; females are the ones who clean up messes.

  • I went to my teacher and said, "I need help understanding this because my partner won't let me do anything." My teacher told me, "I get it. Sometimes you're stuck with people who don't want to cooperate or try their best to work in a group." You have to learn to accommodate for things and be able to work with people even though maybe you aren't the best fit. That's the way the world is, especially in this field. Therefore, I believe the boys in my group failed to cooperate in this situation.

Anatomy Study Partner Story:


I studied anatomy with a fellow student. As an indecisive person, I enjoy being in STEM because the answers are clear and right. I find confidence in myself through my knowledge. My first day in Anatomy was a rough go. My professor had charts of the human body at each table and said, "You have 10 minutes. I want you to "refresh" your minds on basically every body component." She said, "I will ask questions and expect you to point for identification and purpose."


I laugh thinking back to that day because it was a really awkward moment in which everyone had a sense of shock in their eyes and a furrow in their brow. I knew then and there, that this was no joke and science is for real. So naturally, no one wants to work alone in this situation. I sat across from a guy who seemed to have similar goals and motivation for success. From these similarities, we became study partners. Classes like Anatomy cannot be passed easily without the effort of having a partner or group with which to work together.


Studying with my partner was beneficial in the beginning until we got back our grades for our first test. When I received a better grade than him, he viewed our study sessions as competition. Much like the "Hero Boy" from The Polar Express, my study partner constantly asked me if I was sure, and he would continuously doubt me. I felt like the "Hero Girl" from the movie, especially when you can see her doubting herself because of the lack of support from her "friends." When I did better on tests, he constantly asked me for my notes and then would nit-pick my notes. I blew up on him because he never took notes; meanwhile, my hand would be falling off as I wrote down everything the teacher said. I finally said, "maybe you should take your own notes if you're going to doubt mine constantly." We didn't study together much after that.

This school year was definitely a learning experience. I was surrounded by more males than ever before in a working environment. I have had to work and study with them, and I have noticed that they tend to underestimate my knowledge. But, on the other hand, when I study with groups of girls, they make me feel like I am Albert Einstein.

FUEL:


I used the way these guys treated me as fuel for my studying. It made me want to prove myself and make the best grades possible. I made an A in the lecture class in which I took notes. It was extremely gratifying to me. While it was positive in that sense, I wish that working with males in this field was not that grueling. It took a lot out of me, and I constantly felt self-doubt. Ultimately, my final grade reflected that I knew more than people made me feel like I did.



I want to do this job, and that's why I chose this field. However, it is mentally tiring having to prove myself to others when I put so much effort into being the best Woman in STEM that I can be.


Helpful Resources:

https://www.aauw.org/resources/research/the-stem-gap/

https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/women-in-stem

https://en.unesco.org/stemed


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