Home Bravery and Being Why Do We #VanguardSTEM in Times Like These?
Why Do We #VanguardSTEM in Times Like These?

Why Do We #VanguardSTEM in Times Like These?


by Jedidah Isler, Ph.D.

Because we believe that women of color in STEM matter.

Every single black+latina+first nation+indigenous+filipina+indian+queer+disabled+neuro-atypical woman (which we broadly define as women of color) and gender non-conforming person matters.

We matter fundamentally as human beings AND by virtue of that humanity we deserve to be free. We deserve to pursue our passions wherever they take us, without fear of reprisal or undue difficulty and certainly in the absence of discrimination and oppression.

We are allowed to pursue our love of all things (or one thing, or many things) STEM because it’s our passion/deep interest/obsession/personal challenge. Not to improve the country, which it will. Or to increase the number of “diverse” people in the sector (which it does). But because STEM is something that helps us as individuals (get and) feel free.

Learning about, experimenting on and contributing to the world around us brings joy, peace, contentment. That’s a normal part of the human experience: to find interest in something and pursue it with reckless abandon. It’s a privilege that not everyone gets, but that everyone deserves.

We #VanguardSTEM during times like these and will continue to #VanguardSTEM through whatever is thrown at us because we do not and will not cease to exist despite the sometimes crushing blows and votes of no-confidence that are dealt to us.

We #VanguardSTEM because it reminds us that we are not alone—that there are others like us, and others not so like us, who share our interest, passion and commitment to STEM. In much the same way that others find contentment in the study of people, or systems, or the law; we find contentment in STEM (and its intersections with other fields). We are here, our voice matters and we will continue to invest ourselves in a pursuit that brings us satisfaction for as long as we care to—whether that’s a lifetime or a semester—and then we will give ourselves the permission and exercise our freedom to change our minds if and when we want to.

In the meantime, while we’re all over here #VanguardSTEMming together, we will affirm our right to take up space in this (or any) conversation. We will remind ourselves and our colleagues that grief is a part of the human experience and as such, we are perfectly within our right to feel pain, sadness, mourning, anger, resentment, frustration and malaise.

None of this impacts our ability to be exceptional scientists and do good science. And every honest person knows that NO ONE does good science everyday. There are good days and bad days. Today just happens to be a bad day for many.

The long and short of it is this: many in our community of women of color are hurting right now. Some of us are surprised and shocked. Some of us are reminded of what we thought might happen. Some of us saw it coming from a mile away. Some of us remember living through a similar period of disillusionment. We won’t all have the same reaction because we are not a monolith, but we are here and we will not apologize for it.

Yesterday we featured Katherine Johnson as our #WCWinSTEM. This whole month we’re focused on Hidden Figures, the book by Margot Lee Shetterly and the movie due out on Christmas Day. Our season finale will feature a special guest related to Hidden Figures and we’ll be asking you to send along examples of Hidden Figures you know. We will continue to highlight and amplify the experiences of women of color in STEM.

There is literally nothing anyone could do and no one any country could elect that will stop us from asserting and affirming for ourselves our right to live, breathe and do science on this planet.


So we’ll remain on the cutting edge and typify the true definition of #VanguardSTEM.


Copyright © 2016 by Jedidah Isler

All rights reserved. The content above or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of #VanguardSTEM except for the use of brief quotations, with attribution, and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to #VanguardSTEM, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at hello@vanguardstem.com



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