Monday, August 22, 2016

STEM GEMS: Awesome roll models for girls in STEM

This past Friday, I met Stephanie Espy, the author of the book STEM GEMS. The book tries to combat the lack of women in STEM fields by profiling 44 women who are doing amazing things in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The mission of the book is "to help girls and young women to see their future selves as scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians, and to show them the many diverse options that exist in STEM". The book also contains a few chapters at the end giving actionable advice for how to set yourself up for success in a STEM career. The women in the book put a special emphasis on the challenges they faced along the way, helping to debunk myths common in math and other STEM subject like "The Genius Myth" and the "It-Should-Be-Easy Myth".

I was very surprised to find that 12 of the 44 women fall into the broad category of mathematician, and there was even a number theorist (Melanie Matchett Wood) featured!! In many STEM initiatives, the M is not emphasized beyond it's usefulness in S, T, and E.

Stephanie Espy was trained in chemical engineering, and so has experienced first hand what it's like to be one of the only women in the room (and oftentimes, THE ONLY). Luckily, she grew up in a family filled with STEM professionals, and so she had the role models that many young people - especially women and people of color - lack.

On browsing it in person, I found this book to be very visually appealing and not at all intimidating, with big color photos to draw you into the stories of these women.  While there is value to learning about historical women in STEM, like Marie Curie, I think that seeing women in the modern world succeeding at fields like animation, global health, data science, and electrical engineering can have an even bigger impact.

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