All around the world, young women are questioning their place in society and the workplace. Young women of color, in particular, are asking themselves if they belong, and specifically if they belong in STEAM fields. Can I be an engineer? Can I be a podcaster? Can I do those things I may have never seen another woman do? Society is evasive on the answers to these questions. Roadblocks have been set up and hurdles have been put in the way. If it is not explicitly said and shown that women belong, then the message received is a simple “no.”
Our response to this series of questions has always been, “Yes, you can.” Whatever it is that you want to do, you can do it, you should do it, and, in fact, other women have done it before. The Clubhouse is here to validate the gifts and talents of young women. Our responsibility is to tell our members that they are worthy; that they are not just able, but they can excel in these fields.
Every day, young women in our Clubhouses are making history. Moyana Olivia, a member at The Best Buy Teen Tech Center at Hope Community Inc, was recently interviewed on ABC’s The View about her original song and accompanying music video, “X-Ray.” Her song encourages everyone–especially young people–to make a difference by voting. A member of Clubhouse La Chorrera in Panamá, one young woman worked with her family to make custom masks at the start of the pandemic. Across the USA, young women from Clubhouses were at the front of last summer’s racial justice protests, and continue to lead protests and participate in direct action. We must honor these historical moments as they happen.
Women’s History Month is an opportunity to demonstrate and elevate the women leaders that have changed the fields and disciplines that inspire our youth. Women, like so many other marginalized groups of people, seem to only get four weeks out of the year to get their due respect. To say it’s insufficient would be an understatement. What is the experience of having an identity that only has relevance one month out of the year, and for society to call that progress? As we learn to break free of this very flawed paradigm, the month must serve as a catalyst to change attitudes and perceptions throughout the year. The muscles we flex during Women’s History Month must be maintained long after March ends. This means creating targeted programming, bringing in guest speakers, and creating a culture of daily inclusion. But that is not enough.
Representation matters and our young women–and young men–need to see women in mentoring roles. We challenge our Clubhouses, our supporters, and communities to engage women in STEAM fields and leadership positions in local mentoring roles. Mentoring has the potential to make a big difference in the lives of teens (that’s why it’s baked into our mission and learning model). More women mentors in a space also make it more welcoming to young women.
This March and beyond, consider how you will celebrate women’s history, and how you will support the representation of women in STEM, both in and outside of a Clubhouse.