Today, instead of doing homework at the local mom-and-pop-café-killer, I chose to do homework in the Engineering building’s computer lab with my BF.
As I walk in, seemingly peaceful student engineers tense up and angle their bodies towards me. Scores of students aiming for a degree declaring automatic job prospects stare me down. In unison, and I swear, in slow motion, lips part, eyes bulge and look down White men’s noses. Jugular veins quake daring to bust out the necks of two Latinos. Pakistani men narrow their eyes and frown like they smell something fowl. They’re sniffing me out! Out of the great conjectural space surrounding us, a mystical chant over sublime piano chords fade in as if to symbolize two worlds meeting. Then, the only female engineering student in the lab begins to walk towards me.
“A woman, thank goodness” I think.
I say, “Hey girl, so many dudes in here. Vages unite, right?” But then, her henna-laced hands move to take my coffee. “Noooo” oozes out of my mouth in the typical deep voiced, slow motion fashion. The woman angrily ties back her long black hair and points to a sign. She reads “no drinks, no exceptions”. Did she just swirl her neck?
My BF takes my coffee and stands before the woman about to attack me. He touches the brim of his hat and with an ever so slight nod of the head gains permission for us to pass, coffee intact.
Two of my BF’s friends look at him with question and concern. They stare at me intently while he dryly says, “my girlfriend, her parents are engineers but she’s journalism”, and they turn away.
Huh? I was so confused…. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “You’re also crazy. You just that said you heard chants and pianos while a room of male engineering students stared you down,” but no, I’ve got something here.
This is a classic case of aspiring as a triple threat: WOMAN – MINORITY – SMART.
See, while hunching behind a desktop tower so that I could avoid “no-coffee” girl’s burning eyes, a thought came to me. These guys (and the one girl) just sniffed me out to determine whether or not I’m a double dippin’ minority: taking all the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) scholarships while black + female. They tried to intimidate me, but once they determined I was just a little old liberal arts major aiming for a degree worth its weight in air, they left me alone. I wasn’t completely a triple threat to them because I’m smart, but not STEM bound. Check it out.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, only 1 in 4 STEM jobs are held by a woman. Jennifer González reports that, “not enough women…are studying for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math, which are among the nation’s fastest-growing fields,” The Institute for Women’s Policy Research recommends that schools should encourage women to pursue STEM so that they don’t “[lose] out on job security” or “the potential for higher wages”.
The article also points out that, “In 2009, women in non-STEM careers had median annual earnings of $35,633… In certain STEM fields, those median earnings ranged from $41,091 (for engineering technicians) to $71,944 (for electrical and electronics engineers).”
Furthermore, if you search for “STEM Scholarships” you will find that most say, “Women and minorities are encouraged to apply” or “have preference”. You are also likely to find that community colleges across the nation are seeking ways to retain Latino students on STEM tracks. A more recent article from Chronicle says that the reason is more than money. It’s about (gasp)
OMG…the “no-coffee” girl is coming …………………………………………………………………………………………………………..
Okay, she’s gone. What was I saying?
Oh yes, retaining Latinos on STEM tracks isn’t just about the prospect of better paying careers, it’s about the projected population of Latinos in the US.
“The education of young Latinos is imperative given the fact that Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing and youngest demographic group in the country… Latinos are projected to make up nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population by 2040, and as baby boomers age and retire, the nation will become increasingly dependent on Latinos.”
SMART and STEM BOUND
Finally, being smart is a necessary threat. Women must capitalize their worth beyond their curves. My little sister thinks she wants to be a nurse. Although her grades in science may not be the best, teachers should take her under their wings to make sure she doesn’t lose her steam. They should provide her with the tools and help she may need to stay true to her dream, especially as a young lady that navigates the world as a dark-skinned beauty. Our mom always says that as young Black women, we need the promise of intelligence on our inner resumes.
With that in mind, I ought to bring some theatre up in these here STEM parts and put on a double dippin’ show. I think I’m going to mess around on one of these computers like I’m designing a robot or something. Ha!