by Erica Rossi, FRC Team 5885 — The Villanova WiredCats
Last month, the Girls in STEM Student Executive Advisory Council had a discussion pertaining to microaggression and how to counteract it with microsponsorship. Microsponsorship counters microaggression by recognizing and including people who might be overlooked due to their differences. But what does this really mean?
From an early age we are taught to, “treat others with kindness” and to “always respect others.” Microsponsorhip is a big word that excompasses these attitudes that we have been taught. Being a female in STEM presents a lot of challenges and many girls feel that they have to face them alone. However, this is not the case. In the workplace and on FIRST teams, you may experience microaggression first-hand. A good example: you suggest an idea that is completely ignored, and then somebody else suggests the exact same idea and everyone recognizes it and accepts it (maybe even loves it!) – yet when you said it, it was totally ignored. This is microaggression. In that moment, you may have wanted someone to speak up and recognize the idea as your own—you wanted someone to help counter the microaggression with microsponsorship.
So how can we help enforce microsponsorship on teams? I believe that in order to help pave a way for girls in STEM, we need to help counteract microaggression in a respectable and effective way. You may wonder why this is important and think that we should instead focus on having girls speak up for themselves. Although that is important, in order to create a safe and fun FIRST team you need the members to help build each other up; you need all members to help counter and recognize microaggression so that others can feel that they are not alone.
One way to help enforce microsponsorship is by making your peers and fellow teammates cognisant of microaggression within the team. Help them realize that in order to help bring about change, they must act in the moment with microsponsorship and do what is right before it’s too late. Overall, you have to understand that in order to counteract microaggression, you have to help turn a negative attitude, action, or word into a positive one. To help enforce these values in younger kids, such as FLL or FLL JR. members, you have to try and get them to “stand in someone else’s shoes.” Ask them how they would feel if someone didn’t listen to them, or if someone told them they couldn’t do something because they are too young.
In order to create a self sustaining and respected team you must teach everyone to counter microaggression with microsponsorship, no matter their age. In the end, we always have to remember to encourage others and build each other up!
Erica Rossi is a member of the Girls in STEM Student Executive Advisory Council, an initiative of FIRST Robotics Canada.