Finding a Role Model: My FabFems Experience

Contributed by Shivani Desai

There’s a certain ratio I would like to address: 1 to 74 million. The U.S. Census Bureau states that there are approximately 74 million children under the age of 18 in the United States of America. Here I am, 1 in 74,000,000. Special, right? These 74 million people are the generation taking over. The generation to be reckoned with. I’m one in seventy-four million, one in a group of the brightest minds of the world. How will I take over?

Growing up, I had many aspirations. I wanted to be the first scientist to study everything in the universe, to create a museum of ‘everything’. I called it “Scientology”. Later, it came to my attention that Scientology is a religion. My bad. In fifth grade, I wanted to be a surgeon and later dissected a frog. Following that aftermath, I decided I would say adieu to Harvard Medical School. In sixth grade, I joined the First Lego League Robotics team at school. The acronym STEM had etched itself in my head and I became introduced to the prospect of engineering. All throughout middle school, “I want to be an engineer,” was the compulsory response to the worn out question adults at my school loved to ask: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”. But one question burned in my mind. What can I be now? And how do I take steps to become something even more important in the future?FabFems Screenshot

It’s important to me that I find a purpose. On the journey of finding one, guided by the push of a school project on careers, I discovered the FabFems database at FabFems.org. FabFems are strong, amazing women who have built careers in STEM. Using the website is simple. You either become a role model or find a role model. I clicked on the button of the latter and entered in my information and specifications for finding role models to contact. Soon, I was presented with a list of female engineers in the Georgia area. I was quite amazed.

One thing led to another and I then sent out emails to all three role models I found, asking them questions about their studies and why they chose to pursue their fields. I talked more and more with one role model in particular, Stephanie Gillespie. She talked about her research in digital signal processing and I was suddenly interested in electrical engineering. The other FabFems I discussed with talked about their fields of mechanical engineering and biotechnology. I was suddenly interested in those, too. I furthered my research on different types of engineering, costs, colleges, and the range of research in those careers. Finally, I made plans to meet with Stephanie Gillespie.

Stephanie and ShivaniThe day came faster than I thought it would and suddenly I found myself sitting in a cafe, waiting for an inspiring woman in STEM to talk to me. To me, that one person in the midst of 74 million others. I had the honor of interviewing and talking to Stephanie Gillespie about questions that came to mind on electrical engineering. That evening was one of the most insightful experiences I had ever been through. I learned about the importance of trying new things even though I would fail. I learned about her research in digital signal processing and her experiences programming a computer to detect the voice of someone with a speech disorder. I was exposed to a whole new world of engineering. FabFems.org has provided me with such a wonderful experience in contacting role models and learning from them- it is an amazing, important website for young girls like me interested in STEM careers. The FabFems you meet are intelligent, remarkable, and extremely helpful if you want to explore and find out more about what you want to do in your life. I recorded the interview I had with Stephanie and learned so much about the growth of different fields, how to get ahead in your desired area of focus, and the importance of outreach.

Thank you, Stephanie Gillespie. Thank you to the other FabFems I contacted. Thank you to FabFems.org for providing me with a way to reach out to a female role model and help me figure out what I can do for the future.

I’m inspired to continue my outreach and shadow/work with more female engineers as I enter high school. My interests are in electrical engineering at this point, and that field has a world of opportunities to explore. I am beyond excited to discover them, and I hope that you take your chances and discover your own.

FabFems LogoThe FabFems directory is a national database of women in STEM professions who are inspiring role models for young women. The FabFems directory is accessible to young women, girl-serving STEM programs, and other organizations that are working to increase career awareness and interest in STEM. If you or someone you know is interested in becoming a FabFem, create a FabFems profile to expand girls' career options, dispel stereotypes and spark their interests - just by being you. There are no commitments. When you register, you specify how much or how little you would like to be involved.