by Kouthar Waled, FRC Team 772 — the Sabre Bytes
Every year, there are more girls joining FIRST Robotics teams. There are still struggles, however, that females face when joining and participating in these teams. Females on teams are more likely to report not being taken seriously in discussions and when working on the robot, and are more likely not to be given key roles in robot assembly and programming.
These days, it’s more accepted for women to enter into STEM related fields, but there are still barriers that prevent women from further pursuit of these careers. There are several ways to help and collaboration between women and men is key to breaking down these obstacles. Collaboration and effective team work creates a better environment for everyone, which in turn increases productivity and innovation on teams, and supports a bigger pool of ideas.
One of the difficulties of being involved with building the robot is having your ideas heard. It’s important to make sure all voices are heard equally in the room. Each idea should be handled objectively, without immediate dismissal, so that there isn’t a chance that someone’s idea is silenced. This allows for all parties to be more attentive, more thoughtful, and more constructively critical, while ensuring that there is no one who is dismissed. Girls will then be more encouraged to speak up, and will be less likely to have to fight to have their ideas taken seriously.
When working on the robot, whether it be hands-on or in software, it’s important to never assume a girl’s experience level. Weigh the girl’s experience and commitment on the team with gauging her skill level. If she has experience, and is taking initiative, let her! If she is doing something incorrectly, try and help, rather than removing her from the task. Don’t discourage girls who have less experience by not giving them a chance to learn—allow them to be hands-on to be able to acquire skills. This benefits the team because more people are trained and able to work on the robot, and the positive assistance allows for better collaboration and team building.
It’s critical that females and males alike work together to encourage inclusivity and acceptance on teams. This will allow for more females and other underrepresented individuals to enter STEM related fields, which in turn means more commitment, more ideas, and more success.
Kouthar Waled is a member of the Girls in STEM Student Executive Advisory Council, an initiative of FIRST Robotics Canada.