by Madison Vickery, FRC Student
As a child I was always encouraged by my parents to step outside of the borders set for females and to pursue my interests; whatever they may be. My interests growing up revolved around STEM. My whole life I knew that I wanted to go into the engineering field, but it wasn’t until grade seven that I learned about mechanical engineering. I fell in love with the concepts of the field and began to pursue my interests through attending several courses and academies that taught me the skills I would need to pursue my dreams. It wasn’t until grade eight that I was introduced to FIRST Robotics by an acquaintance. I attended an open house for team 5689 and decided that it was the perfect way for me to learn more about STEM fields.
I noticed something concerning while I was at the open house: there were no girls on the team and no girls attending the open house, I was the only one. STEM careers are male dominated and as such, girls often perceive STEM careers as not accessible to them. This should not be the case, women are just as qualified to participate in the field of STEM as men are and we need to be empowered to do so.
In today’s society young girls often feel as though they are not allowed to be interested in STEM fields. Everywhere we look there are gender stereotypes that limit girls’ interests. One example I have seen of this is in stores. In every store I have been to, the toy aisles have been divided into “girl” and “boy” aisles. The “boy” aisles consists of science kits and building sets, while the “girl” aisles consists of dolls and bracelet-making kits. This is very bothersome to me because it results in girls believing that they are not allowed to like the toys in the “boy” aisles. From a very young age girls are discouraged from choosing STEM-related interests.
My little sister is six years old and I am very proud of her for what she is interested in. One of her favourite activities is building with LEGO. My little sister does not restrict herself solely to the pink “girls” LEGO, she enjoys building the superhero and car LEGO sets despite what her friends enjoy; this makes me very proud because it means that I have made an impact on her through my actions and decisions. Although I do not believe that girls should be restricted to the pink LEGO, I believe it is a great building block to getting more girls interested in STEM careers.
I think it is very important to get young girls like my sister involved in STEM at a young age. I believe that if we do not, it could result in the lack of confidence to pursue their interests in STEM due to gender stereotypes. This is a very important issue to me because I believe in equity among genders. I think that by encouraging girls to break the barrier made by society at a younger age they will be able to influence other females to do the same. I expect that this will make a big difference for my sister and other young girls her age by broadening their career options to allow for STEM careers.
I hope to be a strong role model for young girls by pursuing my own interests in mechanical engineering. I believe that by showing girls like my sister that women are just as capable as men and that there are no limits to their dreams, that we can all change society’s view on women in STEM. One way I am attempting to open young girls minds to the possibilities of STEM careers is by starting an all girls FIRST LEGO League Junior team. By doing this, I’m hoping that I can get young girls excited about STEM and influence them to pursue that interest in the future. I plan on teaching them the strategies they’ll need and skills that they’ll require to be able to challenge the stereotypes they will face. I’m excited about the opportunity to not only encourage young female minds but to help shape the way they see what the world as to offer.
Madison Vickery is a member of the Girls in STEM Student Executive Advisory Council, an initiative of FIRST Robotics Canada.