Can I succeed in STEM if I don’t fit the stereotype?

stem success

In one word: yes

In one sentence: You are capable of more than you could even imagine, and the world needs your ideas and input to conquer and solve some of its most difficult questions.


If you’re in a hurry, you can stop there. I wanted to make sure everyone who clicked here had the chance to see that, even if you don’t have time to read a whole blog post.

Have another couple minutes? There’s more:

Every one of you reading this is capable of succeeding in STEM.

What does it take to succeed in STEM?

A curiosity to ask science, engineering, technology, and math questions, and the interest to look for the answers.

That’s it.

Your gender, your skin color, your income, and anything else about you? Doesn’t matter.

YOU have the innate ability to succeed.

I admit – there may be difficulties along the way. You may be the only ___A____ in a room full of ___B___. Fill in the blanks for whatever applies to you. For me, I was very frequently the only _girl_ in a room full of _boys_.

Do you know what though? Every other ___B___ in the classroom with you will have their own struggles in their path through STEM as well. A lot of times, the people getting under your skin the most are the ones facing the biggest personal struggles in their own lives.

If you’re doubting yourself because you aren’t like the others around you, or because you aren’t like the people you envision in your future job, don’t let that stop you. You are more like them than you imagine (unless you’re half fish). You have goals and dreams and aspirations, and a unique perspective that makes you who you are.

When you go to work in a STEM job, you are bringing that perspective with you, not just your classroom knowledge. You have an entire collective of your own experiences, and your own approach to thinking and problem solving based on both your personality and your past. To employers, this is an asset. You are unique and valuable, regardless of being ___A____ , or even better – you are unique and valuable because you are ___A____.

Most days, being an _ (girl)__ in a room full of _ (boys)__ wasn’t a big deal for me. We were all students, and we all had good days and bad days. Some days, it was challenging to be different from everyone else. There have been a few rare really bad days where I’ve let someone nasty get under my skin. To be honest, days like that suck. A lot. Those days are very few and far between. My response is to pick myself up, move on, and to become a better STEMinista – just to prove that nasty person wrong.

There are two people I can think of in the past who have told me I couldn’t succeed in STEM because I’m a _girl_. Want to know something cool? Those two people, who made me feel absolutely horrible in the past are the whole reason I started going to talk to young people about pursuing STEM. I took that negative energy, and turned it around to bring about what I hope will be positive change. Not only did I work all the more harder to prove that I could succeed, but I’ve made it a point to make sure that all of you know that YOU can succeed too.

So, maybe you’re different. Maybe you don’t fit the stereotype. That isn’t bad. That just makes it all the more special when you pursue STEM, and you DO reach your goals. I love telling you this, and I’ll tell you over and over and over again:

YOU can succeed in STEM. YOU have what it takes, and I believe in YOU.

Happy Monday, and go kick some STEM butt this week!




P.S. My feelings about this subject are really strong. I am not kidding when I say I believe in YOU.   We will come back to this point – over, and over and over. I could stay up all night talking to you about why I think people who don’t fit the stereotype are ideal for STEM careers. To those of you who do fit the stereotype – I could write all night about why you fit perfectly into STEM, too. To spare you a 4000 page post, we’ll come back to this later – many times. But know that I believe in you and you can succeed in STEM.

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