Growing up in an environment where there is a lack of representation of women in STEM has become a motivation for me to be part of the STEM field. However, my understanding of the STEM field is very broad, limited to ideas like lab works and research. But, during the seminar, hearing from people who are currently working in the STEM policy field changed my perspective about STEM fields. People with STEM backgrounds acquire unique skills like technical experiences, analytical skills, which gives them an advantage and allows them to look for careers in fields like policymaking, lobbying, consulting, international affairs and so on.
The three days of seminar were filled with different activities. Not only did I get the opportunity to listen to people that work in STEM related fields, but they taught us various skills, like networking, the importance of having mentors, and many others. One particular section that I was interested in was cybersecurity. My understanding of cybersecurity was only about protection of computer systems from hackers, until one of the speakers mentioned it was more than that. Cybersecurity is also related to international affairs and protecting relationships between different countries. I never thought of it that way, but this really caught my attention. Moreover, the speaker mentioned that you don't necessarily need to have a perfect background in tech things, which made me more interested in cybersecurity and wanted to learn more about this field.
Additionally, the atmosphere in the seminar was just amazing. It felt great to be surrounded by women that did not see each other as a competition, but rather a support system and an inspiration. Being able to listen to successful women sharing their experiences is very inspiring to younger generations, especially for girls that are planning to be involved in careers that are traditionally dominated by men.
The three days seminar feels both long and short at the same time. There was so much information shared that it could be overwhelming, but it was also short. I wish l had more time to talk to the speakers one on one, but I also understand that it is challenging since most of the speakers are working and have a busy schedule.
Saying that the STEM Policy seminar completely changed me is a big statement to make. However, this seminar did give me a different perspective of how I view the STEM field. It opens new ways for me to explore further this field. An interesting point that I remember from the speakers is that their current work does not necessarily relate to their undergraduate degree. People’s interest changes over time. The undergraduate program that I am doing now could be something that I might continue in the future or could also be that I will find a completely different path. I have to be open to different opportunities that are coming.
There are many valuable lessons from this seminar, but the most interesting takeaway I had was how to be confident. I think that people do not talk much about it. A speaker mentioned that most women, when they apply for jobs, are likely not to apply if they do not check all of the boxes, which shows a lack of confidence. As women, we needed to be more confident and not to underestimate ourselves and our abilities. There is no easy way to the top, but we do have potential to be there. For sure there will be many challenges and failures, but this is what makes you grow.
Overall, this seminar also provides space or ways for women to flourish. I am grateful for the opportunity and the support provided to attend the seminar, and I hope to share with my community. I would encourage people to apply for the seminar and take the opportunity to learn and explore more about different fields.
Jorania Ferreira Alves attended the 2022 STEM Policy seminar who is a senior at Luther College studying Economics and Data Science.