Combatting STEM Isolation: Finding Community in Our Individual Voices
By Mallory Molina
As scientists, most of us think in terms of numbers, statistics and hard facts. They are the foundation upon which we build our claims and our understanding of the scientific fields we pursue. While this is good in science, this thought process can bleed into other areas of our lives and paint an incomplete picture.
An over dependence on statistics can become obvious when looking at inclusivity initiatives that look to bolster the representation of women of color in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. While the numbers do play an important role and can provide some insight about ability, they don’t necessarily get at the heart of the matter. We are not numbers–and statistics don’t always provide solutions to the problems we face. We are human beings with perspectives that are molded by our life experiences.
Moving Beyond the Numbers
Women of color in STEM have unique perspectives that often go unheard. As a result, we can feel alone in our thoughts and worries, which may lead to a sense of isolation at our jobs or departments. This isolation can worsen when having to deal with discrimination, misunderstanding or tokenism that our STEM environments, inadvertently or not, thrust upon us.
I have experienced many of these issues throughout my life. I know that the feeling is both disheartening and lonely. For a while, I even tried to run away from who I was in the hopes of mitigating my isolation. All it did, however, was make my life more difficult and leave me further isolated. I was not only lying to the world, but also to myself. After struggling with these feelings for many years, I realized I don’t have to feel alone. I have started building a network of women of color in STEM that I can feel connected to, who will understand my struggles, and who will rejoice in my victories.
Over the course of the summer, I want to dispel this sense of isolation for you, as well.
You are not alone.
There are other women of color in STEM who face the same issues that you do everyday, and the point of this blog series is to bring these stories to you to reduce the isolation––to help you build community.
Meet Mal: An Article Series
Each week, I will interview a different woman of color in STEM, delving into the issues we face in the pursuit of degrees and careers in STEM fields; I also plan to highlight some of the personal hardships they’ve overcome while on their journey.
These stories will be a reflection of the true nature of women of color in STEM; information that is gained outside of predicting GRE scores or the number of admitted students per year. I want to shed light on the difficulties and triumphs of being a woman of color in STEM. Through our different stories, we can find our own collective voice––and help one another succeed.
Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler
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