It is an essential element to finding motivation, creative avenues, success, satisfaction…
But where do we find it? Is it in those who have come before us? The encouragement and confidence others give? The goals and dreams we have set for the future? In particular, how do we inspire girls and women to join and remain in STEM fields? This is the theme of the second quarter Scientiae Carnival.
Everyone has her own story, her own source of inspiration, and it varies at each stage of career and life. Elaine Westwick found her inspiration to become a scientist amongst science writing greats, but as she considers re-entry to a science career, she is looking for new role models. J.J. Brown recognizes the importance of success, visible female scientists shares a personal role model, Barbara McClintock. lin at PhD-baby is inspired the women she grew up with, women who had to fight for their education and jobs. Karina over at Ruminations of an Aspiring Ecologist reminds us that mentors come in many forms – including friends and peers. Alyssa at Apple Pie & The Universe and Dr. O at The Tightrope have been learning to entangle the roles of scientist and mother. JaneB shares her difficulty in finding inspiration among role models, a sense of being weighed and found wanting – a feeling I think anyone could relate to.
From my own experience, you don’t have to be a female scientist to encourage girls’ interests in STEM. Growing up with strong and occasionally spunky working women in my life, it never occurred to me that anything of interest was out of bounds. Those women also influenced the men I grew up with – namely my dad and brother – who never told me what I could or couldn’t do because I was a girl. It was a middle-aged white guy teaching chemistry in a small town high school who planted the first suggestion that I, Belle, could personally make a career out of science. I didn’t think much of it at first, or even for a few years. But that first bit of encouragement laid the groundwork for other fantastic mentors – also male – in college and grad school. The further I go in my scientific career, the more I realize that there are few women at the top and that there are particular challenges and stereotypes to navigate as a woman in science. I now look more for strong, female scientists as role models and potential mentors.
But in this quest for inspiration, we must remember: The goal isn’t to become those who inspire us. It’s to find a spark of motivation, an element of respect, and – most of all – the knowledge that through all our exploits, we’re not alone.