As a young girl in Santa Fe, I learned and grew to appreciate two things: (1) green chile is not for me—sorry—and (2) women are the future of science. I don’t know whether I would have learned that second item as quickly as I did if I didn’t also grow up at Girls Inc. of Santa Fe. At the little building on top of the rather large hill in downtown Santa Fe, I learned why it’s so important to build supportive relationships, how my voice is important for the future of science, and what my peers and I can do to influence the future of females.
If someone were to ask me, “Who do you look to when you need help?” I’d say, “My mom, my female friends at school, my “older sisters” and mentors at Girls Inc., or my female biology teacher.” No, I don’t have a problem with men—almost all my friends in grade school were male—but when it comes to building a supportive network I turn to the hilarious, kind-hearted, witty women in my life. I trust them and feel comfortable enough to lean into them in times of sorrow, distress, or exhaustion. There’s something about having a network of women that makes me feel more confident in myself.
In recent years, I’ve been fortunate enough to intern with professionals in bioinformatics, childhood development, and cellular neurobiology. Two out of my three mentors are women and the third is confident in my future as a female scientist. Experiencing what it’s like to be in the field before I get there is an experience like no other—I see how people treat and compete with one another. While I have heard about and witnessed some of the struggles women in particular face in STEM, I know that my mentors believe in my potential and so are willing to spend their time and energy with me. However, I also know that the number of women working in STEM fields is far lower than it ought to be. I still face a future where I may be the only woman working on a project, and where the kind of support system I currently enjoy may be hard to build. That is why wanted to spearhead a project to teach younger girls about DNA analysis — to show them there is a place for them in STEM, just as Girls Inc. had shown me when I was their age.
In ninth grade, I was assigned a personal project for school, and I thought what better time to incorporate my strong passion for science (originally fostered at Girls Inc.), female empowerment, and teaching. Over the course of several months, I developed a curriculum, including several original case studies, designed to pique the interest of ten and eleven-year-old girls. I worked with Becky, one of my brilliant mentors at Girls Inc., and a research scientist from the National Center for Genome Resources. In the end, I got to personally work with the girls on case studies and activities I created. Without Girls Inc., I would never have had the ability to communicate with young girls or the confidence to work with them on science-related activities.
Over the next several months, I hope to continue working with my friends at Girls Inc. to make changes in our local communities and the global community at large. We each have something valuable to provide this world, especially in a time like the present. On this International Day of the Girl, I remind myself to embrace the things I’ve learned about female relationships, how special they can be, and that my future matters. All of the things I have learned as a Girls Inc. girl and as a native New Mexican benefit my colleagues, community members, and me, as I use my voice to create our equal future.