Do you look at the world through rose-coloured glasses? When one looks at the world in this manner, things often appear better than they really are. Sometimes people are blinded to the truth of a situation because the situation does not directly impact them or someone they love. I do not fault anyone for this, as it is simply human nature, but for me, I have made a conscious decision to not look at the world through rose-coloured glasses. I tossed out my rose-coloured glasses a long time ago, which put a small spark in me to inspire change that is now a blazing fire.
Imagine a world in which women make up the majority in STEM career fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and ethnic diversity abounds. I personally imagine a world where I am no longer considered different from everyone else but considered the same as everyone else. Now, that my friend, is looking at the world through “colourful” glasses, where you see the beauty of what could be and seek to make it a reality.
We have all seen the facts, figures, and percentages that indicate there is a huge gender, ethnic, and pay gap in STEM career fields. We’ve even heard of the impending shortage of qualified candidates to fill open STEM jobs. Projections indicate that within a few years, there could be 2.4 million unfilled STEM jobs in the US alone. Unfortunately, although women make up 48% of the workforce, they hold only 23% of STEM positions.
A Huge Gap
As a female software engineer of African descent, I often find myself seated at a table where no one around that table looks like me; furthermore, no one seated at the higher table where decisions about my career and advancement opportunities are made looks like me either. Now, that is a HUGE gap! I believe that when I see a gap and can consciously acknowledge it, it’s because either I was meant to fill that gap or to do something to close it.
Thankfully, I am not the type to complain about something but then do nothing to make it better. I often ask myself, what can one person like me do to influence change on a mass scale? Well, any oceanographer that studies wave energy will tell you that large waves start out as just tiny ripples; the smallest movement can produce a big disturbance. My tiny ripple (that will one day become a wave) in the massive ocean is Colors of STEM!
STEM’s True Colours
Colors of STEM is an initiative that I started for two main reasons. First, I wanted to reduce the gender gap by giving girls and young women of all colors in the rainbow positive role models in STEM. I was able to do this by sharing the colorful and inspiring stories of STEM women with middle and high school girls. I share these stories on the “I AM STEM” blog found on the Colors of STEM website and through a monthly webinar called Colorful Talks. How better to ignite change than by reaching a generation when they are young and by showing them what’s possible from a STEM career perspective? Second, I wanted to provide a platform to recognize and honor women in STEM careers. In my software engineering role, I often felt overlooked and like a true modern day hidden figure because I was different from everyone else around me. I did not want another woman to experience what I had experienced, so I decided to provide a way to honor and acknowledge the work of STEM women worldwide. The combination of inspiring girls and young women by honoring the work that professional women do on a daily basis proves to be a perfect match. I am able to influence change while honoring those like me.
I am proud to say that through Colors of STEM, we’ve built a network of professional women working together to inspire the next generation. The women featured on my blog also take part in hosting Colorful Talks. My Colorful Talks STEM webinar puts middle and high school girls in direct contact with a STEM professional, allowing them to hear from the women and ask questions live. Every time I see a new spark ignite in the eyes of a girl or young woman, where STEM is concerned, I know my ripple is growing into a wave. I know my work is making a difference to bring my colorful world to fruition. Every time I have the privilege of connecting with a woman in STEM to share her story, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride and admiration for what she has accomplished and for the impact of her work on society. I have met many amazing women and it is an honor to share their stories with the world.
A Colourful Ripple
Colors of STEM has recently expanded outside of the United States to partner with women in the United Kingdom. My little ripple is now crossing oceans! My longer term goal is to span every continent and to build a global network of professional women impacting middle and high school girls worldwide. Colors of STEM allows me to see the world through “colorful” glasses. I see the beauty of what could be and work hard to make that a reality.
If you’d like to see the world through colorful glasses, join me by telling your colourful and inspiring story here: http://colorsofstem.org/your-story/. Join me in turning this ripple into a wave!
Editor’s note: Women in STEMM Australia thanks Kesha for sharing Colors of STEM! As our first international guest author, we hope to share more great initiatives around the globe – especially in the Asia-Pacific region. Women in STEMM Australia encourages all women in STEMM to let their colours shine! Tell your story, share your ambition, and glow kaleidoscope bright!
Follow Colors of STEM on Twitter: @colorsofstem
About the author:
Kesha Williams, M.S. is a software engineer, full-stack web developer, game designer, online teacher, and technical project manager with over 20 years’ experience working in the airline, medical, restaurant, and education industries. She’s been a software developer with Chick-fil-A (Corporate) since 2005 and has taught courses in the Java Certification program at the University of California, Irvine and helped to develop the curriculum since 2008. She most recently earned the Think Different Innovation Award from Chick-fil-A in 2016 for her work on investigating how emerging technologies like Amazon’s Alexa can improve restaurant operations. In 2014, she earned the Distinguished Instructor Award from the University of California, Irvine to reflect the value she’s brought to the Java Certification program over the years. She has worked for companies like Delta Air Lines, McKesson, and Keane Federal Systems (U.S. Air Force) serving in various technical lead and software development roles. She did her summer internship with the National Security Agency (NSA); how cool is that? Because of her passion for solving the STEM shortage by introducing people (especially young girls) to technology early on, she volunteers with organizations like Black Girls Code, Usher’s New Look Foundation, Technovation, MentorNet, Junior Achievement, and Code.org because they share her same vision and passion. In her spare time, she enjoys reading science fiction novels and writing technical articles for Java Code Geeks.