Pursuing STEM as a woman can come with it many obstacles and microagressions based on gender. To address and recognize these challenges, we organized a week-long art and photo project, titled #IAmAWomanInSTEM. The project included making a canvas with microaggressions that people in our community have faced written on it, and later taking photos with the canvas. We ended the event with a debrief and recap on Friday.
The purpose of the project was to acknowledge the gender-based microaggressions that women in STEM here at Stanford face, yet also provide a safe space for these people to discuss their experiences and find support. The week-long event started on Tuesday, with canvas decorating in White Plaza. The canvas featured microaggressions that those in our community have heard in their academic or professional work. On Wednesday, we took photos of women in STEM in front of the canvas. We made signs (saying “#IAmAWomanInSTEM &&) that people could fill out to describe themselves. Some favorites read “#IAmAWomanInSTEM && a justice seeker” and “#IAmAWomanInSTEM && an educator.” The intent of this was to show that despite the negative experiences, many can claim their identities beyond the stereotypes of being a woman in STEM. The lunch debrief at the WCC on Friday served to discuss not only the event but also to provide a space to share experiences of being a woman in STEM at Stanford.
Over the past week, I most enjoyed talking to the people who came up to our table while we were making the canvas and taking the photos. We got a lot of women coming up to us and commenting that they had such similar experiences as the ones on the canvas. I think it’s all too easy sometimes to forget that you’re not alone, especially when faced with challenges. Talking to those who came up to us, I was reminded that despite obstacles, there is a huge, supportive community of women in STEM who know exactly what it’s like to be a minority in a STEM field. At our lunch debrief on Friday, we discussed the importance of supportive communities as women in STEM. Seeking communities, role models, and supportive friends can be instrumental in succeeding as a woman in STEM. We also discussed strategies to take care of ourselves and empower ourselves when faced with challenges. From the entire week, I walked away with a sense of empowerment, a sense that I had communities to rely upon despite obstacles.
The conversation about women in STEM is certainly not over and we hope that this event contributed to this important discussion in our community.
Produced by the Women In STEM team: Irene Jeon, Natalie Gable, and Celina Malave