This week, we talked to Nitasha Syed, the creator of Women of STEM!
Asha Loves Science: Thanks for talking with us today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Growing up, my two biggest pastimes were dancing and building things. I loved being able to stimulate both parts of my brain from a very young age and I appreciate CS for allowing me to do that. There is beauty to finding simple solutions to complex problems which is what makes everyday interesting. I ended up getting my degree in Computer Science with a major in Software Engineering and a Minor in AI.
Asha Loves Science: When did you first realize that you were interested in STEM?
To be honest, the push to pursue STEM came from my parents. I was leaning more towards being a lawyer with a specialization in cyber crime. But both my parents insisted that I give computer science a shot. It wasn't until my last two years of college that I started falling in love with the subject. Once all my foundation courses were finished, I was able to concentrate on what interested me most about STEM, and that's when everything clicked.
Asha Loves Science: Why did you start your blog?
I started my blog as a way to reach out to younger girls who exploring different career paths in their mind. Growing up, I had a lot of preconceived notions of what it meant to have a STEM degree, and I just want to be able to reach out to girls and help dispel some of those stereotypes.
Asha Loves Science: What do you think are some of the barriers keeping girls and women from ending up in STEM fields?
The biggest barrier that keeps girls and women from ending up in STEM is the stereotype of what an individual in STEM looks like. There is a huge gender gap in STEM (especially in technology) as it is. We unknowingly are adding fuel to the fire when we reach out only to girls who are good at math and science. We don't put effort into reaching out to girls that have different interests. Being in technology means so many things. It means product management, UI design, front-end engineering, back-end engineer, QA, systems architecture, and databases to name a few. You need designers, artists, mathematicians, scientists, business analysts and even marketers to build these things out. Do you know how much work goes into choosing an icon? A color for a menu? The area of the page the menu will go in? You cant just sit and code it, you need to know how the brain works. Which colors are most attractive to the demographic you are trying to hit? Which place on the page will give a particular feature the most bang for its buck? It takes a team of people from different backgrounds to make it all work, hence we should be reaching out to women and girls that come from a variety of different backgrounds and showing them how their skills can be applied to STEM.
Asha Loves Science: What do you look for in someone you are going to feature?
I want women who don't fit the STEM status quo. I want the president of the art club at high school who never could have thought of getting a CS degree until she saw how much art goes into building out an application. I want the girl who grew up wanting to be a choreographer and didn't realize that she would fit into STEM until she was pushed by a family member. I want the mother who was worried about going back to the workforce from a 1 year gap only to realize how accommodating a STEM role really is to work-life balance. I want girls to be able to read about these different kinds of women and their various backgrounds and think "hey that could be me in the future" and take a leap of faith on a subject they wouldn't have considered.
Asha Loves Science: Can people contact you if they would like to be featured? If so, how?
Asha Loves Science: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us! We look forward to reading about even more amazing women in your future posts!