A Life-Changing Experience with Life-Changing People
This post was submitted by AiC Community Member Katherine Huang.
At the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing National Awards Ceremony held at Charlotte, North Carolina, I met 39 other inspiring female leaders in STEM. Ranging from authors to entrepreneurs to researchers, all of the girls I met were heavily involved in change-leading efforts geared towards removing the gender gap in technological fields.
The event began with a get together, where 39 other girls and I participated in icebreakers. I met a girl who created a robot that places trash in bins based on its compostability or recyclability (Karly!). I met a girl who had an asteroid named after her (Savitha!) and an inventor of prosthetic arms (Wendy!). I still gush over all of the connections I made with so many motivated girls like myself, and seeing us all being awarded for our efforts is something I will never forget.
I was exposed to coding for the first time as a young and avid bookworm on a digital reading website. My passion for coding grew in high school; however, it was there that I first met with discrimination and the stark difference between the enrollment of boys versus girls in computer classes. As one out of the two girls in my coding class, I felt compelled to create at least some type of change in my community so that more females would be interested in Technology; thus my organization, GenZCoders, was born.
I heard about the NCWIT Aspirations in Computing Award through a friend who had applied the previous year, and I initially applied because I thought it would be a great opportunity to connect with other like-minded and passionate girls. I found that the impact of receiving the award is long-term—I text the 2019 winners through a group chat almost every day, I follow their successes and achievements through social media, I receive help in projects that I want to implement in my community, and I’ve created lifelong friendships that I am 100% sure will help me achieve success and guide other girls through the STEM fields.
As I sat in my seat while I devoured the chocolate lava cake at the awards dinner, I lifted my head and looked at all the girls around me. I realized that I was literally surrounded by the leaders of the future. This was a whole community of girls who, by their teenage years, have already led multiple projects that have affected thousands of girls. They are fighting the gender gap in the technological field, and have spoken with renowned individuals on the issue. Then I realized that I was part of this amazing group, and it made me so much more aware of my ability as a leader and changemaker—something I will continuously strive to be!
One lesson learned through my involvement in the Award Ceremony that really stuck with me is that finding a group of girls who have similar values to mine has been incredibly important. Surrounding myself with people who are impassioned and unrelenting with their fight against discrimination, and who enjoy challenging themselves intellectually, truly reinforces and perpetuates the importance of those skills in myself. I know that immersing myself in the NCWIT AIC National Award Winner group of 2019 will help me to push myself as a leader and a proponent for female empowerment in all areas.
In 5 years, I see myself pursuing a masters degree in Computer Science at a university that nurtures my interests in technology, diversity, and innovation. Propelled forward by my presence in the NCWIT community and the female tech-world, I have no doubt that I will have an abundance of research and internship opportunities. Hopefully I will have expanded my network tenfold, reaching female leaders with different passions, dreams, and goals, yet sharing the common goal of promoting the role of women in society.