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STEM and GAINS
Have you heard of this acronym before? It stands for
Where we live in Silicon Valley, there is a push to help motivate, inspire and influence girls to find interest and passion in these subjects. When I was growing up, my dad always told me that I was going to college. It wasn’t like I had a choice, it was just a given. I was going to college. I didn’t exactly know what I was going to do once I got there, but I always knew I was going.
When I got there, I decided I was going to be an elementary school teacher. That was mainly because my cousin was a teacher and I always looked up to her and admired her. So I wanted to be like her when I grew up. I was also told that being a teacher was a good profession for a woman because she could teach and then be home for her kids too and have summers off when kids were off for vacation. This was probably good advice. But I didn’t take it. I started down that route, but got bored and wanted to make more money and be financially independent and to travel and I had all these other big, idealistic dreams, not that I wouldn’t have met them being a teacher, but I wanted more. I wanted a different challenge.
I decided to change my major from Liberal Studies to something else. The something else was something I was unsure of. My dad told me I should study engineering or math. He was an engineer and taught math and so he thought these would be good fields for me. I looked into the engineering and math programs, met with the Deans of the Colleges and did some research. But I didn’t know what I would do with a Math or Engineering degree and I couldn’t envision what I would do with my degree in these fields, nor could I imagine being in class with all men and practically no women. I was intimidated and naive. Luckily I chose Business and found a successful career and met my college goals, but what if?
What if I would have had more women role models? Or what if when I went to meet with the Deans, they walked me through some career discussions or let me sit in a class and shadow the learning? Would I have made a different choice? Perhaps.
The reason why I’m writing this is because Juliana was chosen to join a program in Santa Clara that does just this. It’s called GAINS – Girls Achieving In Non-traditional Subjects. GAINS provides opportunities for young women to explore non-traditional fields, particularly those related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students are given the opportunity to hear from and talk with female professionals currently working in these fields. Students learn more about future careers, visit colleges, attend conferences and explore many options for education. How cool is this? How lucky is she?
She is going to have even more female role models. She is going to have other stories to hear besides mine and her families. Although she has wanted to be a doctor since she was 3 years old, and most likely she will become a doctor, perhaps through GAINS she will have the chance to explore other scientific fields and be inspired by women working in technology companies like Google and Facebook, and LinkedIn. Perhaps she’ll visit a hospital and shadow an intern or doctor for a day and discover if she likes being in this type of environment. I’m hoping GAINS will create a spark and she will light the way to her own happiness and success one day, well prepared!
I am thankful for all the volunteers leading this program and offering to help mentor young women in the Bay area. I am also thankful for the sponsors that help fund this amazing program offered to now over 200 girls and growing! We are lucky to be part of such a great community. Thanks!
p.s. Out of everyone in the audience tonight at the kick off meeting, I won the raffle and received a sweatshirt and water bottle. I love winning!!