Being A Girl In STEM

About me…..

Hello, I am Maysoon, a 16-year-old girl living in the Middle East who has a passion for all things STEM, but especially computer science. Growing up, I saw movies and shows of people coding for hours and it fascinated me. I saw my dad doing it for fun and I knew that I wanted to follow in his footsteps. It was in the 6th grade when I was able to enroll in my school’s first-ever Java class and that was when I knew that there was something special about this subject and it drew me into wanting to know more.

Luckily, I had a great support system and environment that encouraged me to learn more and more about the subject, and by the start of high school, I started competing in hackathons and continuing to pursue my passion in the subject, as well as learning other coding languages such as Python and CSS. But it was then that I realized that there was something odd going on. I always remembered having female classmates with me and loving how everyone enjoyed the subject as a group, but when I competed in these hackathons hosted online, I realized that there were not many girls there, there was always a greater ratio of boys compared to girls.

“When I competed in these hackathons hosted online, I realized that there were not many girls there…”

Then came this year when I enrolled into the Advanced Placement Computer Science class that my school offered, and it shocked me when I realized that there were only 3 girls in the class out of 15 students. The teacher even said that this was a great turnout and that there was usually even fewer girls, and that was when I realized the inequality that exists in the Middle East when it comes to STEM, especially computer science.

How I started to Bridge the gap

It was the day that I came back from my class that I realized something had to be done. I wanted to know why more girls did not want to enroll in these classes. I asked my friends and it seemed like so many of them were unaware of computer science and what it means to code. When I went to my home country, Egypt, that year, I was talking to some of my old childhood friends and they were also unaware. That was when I decided that there was something that I could do to make a difference. I contacted the organization Girls in STEM and told them about how I wanted to start two chapters, one for my community in Saudi Arabia and one for my community in Egypt.

“I contacted the organization Girls in STEM and told them about how I wanted to start two chapters, one for my community in Saudi Arabia and one for my community in Egypt.”

It took a while to start those chapters, having to contact different people to get a good amount of people and create presentations to teach students. But 6 months later, and we had a group of almost 15 students from each chapter that were dedicated to STEM and enjoyed doing it. In another 6 months these 15 students were teaching other students and what we ended up with was being able to enlighten a group of students about a subject they had never known about and never thought that they would like. I also made it a mission to help my friends learn about computer science too. Soon enough, we were getting a license to host our first hackathon in my community in Egypt and continuing to make amazing progress.

“Soon enough, we were getting a license to host our first hackathon in my community in Egypt and continuing to make amazing progress.”

What you can do in your community

If you or anyone you know live in a region or country where you may be the only person in STEM, do not worry because you will always find a group of people, no matter where they might be, that also enjoy what you like to do. There are many things that you can do to change what others believe and it may be hard at the start but it will be worth it. You can do the following:

  1. Contact a STEM outreach group or organization that can help you take the necessary steps to get people involved
  2. Talk to your teachers or school about expanding the STEM community in your school by starting a club
  3. Join STEM communities online such as ones on Reddit or even the New York Academy of Sciences which accepts applications a couple of times a year
  4. Volunteer in teaching younger neighbors or students in your neighborhood about STEM
  5. And most importantly, read this blog to see other students who are interested in STEM like you!

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