(Burnout, Bravery and) Being a Woman of Color in STEM
by Jedidah Isler, PhD
This month we’ve thought long and hard about burnout, bravery and being a woman of color in STEM. As you know, our theme erupted from Nayla Kidd’s narrative. So many women of color identified with her feelings of isolation, disillusionment and stifling expectations in pursuit of her STEM degree. Many of us stood in firm support of her, while also acknowledging their own struggle with their academic journey. It is because of this unifying, yet difficult story, that we have focused the entirety of our July show (tomorrow, July 5, 7pm ET!) on the subject. We wanted to create a space for dialogue around feelings of burnout, how to identify it, how to overcome it and about the toll it takes on women of color in STEM. So join me and Dr. Shine Chang tomorrow as we take a deep dive into the literature about burnout and resilience.
If you’ve heard me speak at all, you know there are two topics that really get me going: 1) blazars — because let’s be serious — black holes are cool and 2) women of color in STEM (and intersectionality, more broadly). These two subjects are near and dear to my heart and #VanguardSTEM has grown as an extension of the latter.
For this last installment in our Burnout, Bravery and Being a Woman of Color in STEM series, I wanted to focus on the “being” part.
To be a woman of color in STEM is to face obstacles that very few will ever have to face; and to overcome them, by victory or redirection, requires an incredible amount of bravery and courage.
Last week, I was at the TEDSummit where an incredible queer activist from a society ruled by totalitarian regime, (who I won’t further identify for her safety) said the following, “To be a queer woman in a society that rejects us empowers us, not weakens us.” This sentiment struck me because I believe it to be the case for women of color in STEM as well. While we often face slanted playing fields, systemic disadvantages, outright racist+sexist+various other -ist attacks, many of us persist to obtain the degrees we first sought. Some of us move out of academia and conquer in other ways. In any case, by being and doing in a world that isn’t always ready for us to do so, we are stronger for it, despite how unfair such a victory is.
I can’t guarantee you a road without obstacles. In fact, I can almost guarantee that you’ll face struggles, but rest assured that you are being strengthened in a way that cannot be counterfeited. By living and breathing you are being a woman of color in STEM and that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Or be the “model” student. You be you. Pursue whatever has your interests and know there is someone else out there that shares those same interests. When you figure it out, come share it with us, we in the #VanguardSTEM community will cheer you on 100%. We all face hard times and some of us even burnout, but the bravery is in continuing to be you. An incredible, gifted, driven, human. A woman of color in STEM.
Kudos to you.
Are there times when you faced burnout? How did your bravery kick in? Have an insight or advice for others? Feel free to leave some love in the comments below, and be sure to chime in for the show tomorrow night. In the meantime, Happy Fourth of July!
Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
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