“I’ve found that most people will take you seriously if you prove yourself.”

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Emily Broom, computer science & mathematical sciences ’17, is passionate about encouraging young girls to participate in STEM fields. She found her love for computers early in life, which helped her earn accolades such as the Distinguished Student Scholar award and the Outstanding Senior in Software Engineering award in this year. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am currently Secretary of the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) 2016-2017. I have been awarded the Distinguished Student Scholar award and the Outstanding Senior in Software Engineering award in 2016. I have served two internships. One was in the summer of 2015 at Northrop Grumman and the second was in 2016 at Google. Outside of school, my passions are music and soccer.

What inspired you to pursue a STEM education and career?

I started web designing at a young age, then I took my first programming class in high school and I loved it. Up until then, every career choice was either analytical or creative, not both. This was my first encounter where I could use both my analytical skills and creativity to create something that, quite possibly, could change the world. Another reason I went into a STEM field is that I always wanted to make an impact upon our world and make it better. Through technology, I believe I can make this difference.

What do think are some of the most shared/common challenges women in STEM fields encounter?

There have been great strides made, but I think there are still some prejudices against women in STEM fields. I think many times it is harder as a woman to be perceived as intelligent by her peers and even by management. At school, project groups sometimes groan when a woman is added to the team, because of preconceived notions. There is also a double standard in the industry. Women are encouraged to be empowered, but sometimes when a woman steps up and pushes her ideas at a meeting, she may be considered “bossy” and not taken seriously.

How have you overcome obstacles/challenges as a woman in STEM?

I try and refute those prejudiced ideas of women. This means going the extra mile to be noticed and taken seriously. Sometimes it means having more evidence behind my claims or more detailed and thought-out ideas that I bring to the table. Some people will question you or be skeptical because of their preconceived notions. You have to account for that and be solid in your work. I’ve found that most people will take you seriously if you prove yourself.

Knowing what you know now, what advice you would give your younger self?

I would have told myself to be more confident. When I was younger, I listened to too many negative comments and let them affect me. Since then, I’ve surrounded myself with more positive people and a more positive atmosphere. It’s helped me to be more confident and happy.

What one takeaway would you want to impart on a young woman thinking of pursuing an education/career in STEM?

Do what you love. If that means you want to be an engineer or a scientist or a mathematician, do it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Don’t let what others think of you be a deterrent. Prove them wrong.

What is an aspect of being a woman in STEM you were surprised to discover?

I discovered that there’s a huge network of women in STEM. Firstly, there’s the Society of Women Engineers at Florida Institute of Technology. Also, many companies have an Employee Resource Group focused on women. There are many groups that promote women in STEM. It is a very active community and very easy to get involved with.

In your experience, what are the top things leaders could do to encourage more young women to enter STEM fields?

There has been a bigger effort recently about getting women to enter STEM fields, which is a great step. However, I think this is coming too late and it is important to reach out to kids and teenagers before they have already made the decision to not go into STEM. I think it’s important to educate the next generation on what it really means to go into a STEM field by having more hands-on classes. I think having women currently in STEM talking to young girls of their experiences would really make a difference. I think we need more female role models for young girls to look up to.

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