Sisters Shattering Stereotypes and Soaring with STEM

Contributed by: Nisha and Ankita

At the Indian Institute of Technology in 1985, it was rare to even catch a glimpse of a woman. And, if you happened to stumble upon one such member of the fairer sex, “you wouldn’t be able to tell,” said our father of his female peers. Thus arose the mantra “femininity and intelligence are in an inverse proportion,” which was propagated by the college’s students and, sadly, may continue to be accepted as a general truth in society.

Nisha and AnkitaOur parents raised us to defy this antiquated axiom. Our father sat with us for hours on end and instilled a love for math in us that persists today. Our mother taught us how to be hardworking, strong, independent, and outspoken women. We learned to both embrace our femininity and shine academically.

Over the years, we’ve realized how fortunate we are to have parents who emphasize education. We were encouraged to participate in numerous math competitions since kindergarten, where we gained our love for problem-solving. However, at each of these math leagues, we observed a trend: girls seldom soared. At both of our National MATHCOUNTS competitions, less than a fourth of the participants were female. Teams from across the country were mostly composed of all boys, or three boys with one (typically lonely looking) girl. Moreover, despite the fact that the competition had been running for over 30 years, a girl had never taken first place. Who could have possibly served as our role model?

This experience at MATHCOUNTS gave us a glimpse of the gender disparity in STEM in the real world.  So when both of us entered high-school, we decided that we wanted to take matters into our own hands. We founded a non-profit organization, the New Hampshire Girls Math Circle, in an effort to show girls that, regardless of the lack of female role models in STEM, they can achieve their full potential.

We hope that by working with girls personally, they’ll be able to see that math isn’t an enigmatic and difficult subject--and it certainly isn’t just for boys. We’re 15 and 17 respectively, which is only a few years older than most of the children we work with, so they can realize that girls their own age can do math--and do it well.

Math is an empowering subject--it’s the core of all STEM fields, so an understanding of it is critical. We believe that sparking an interest in math lights a girl’s future path, and that fostering an environment of communal learning paves it. We hope that the girls we mentor can shatter the stereotypes that bind them, and prove that being “nerdy” is something to take pride in.

Nisha and Ankita are high school students. They founded the New Hampshire Girls Math Circle, a non-profit organization dedicated to instilling a love for math in young girls.