Though many people have their reservations about 2016, for me, I’ve been able to grow both as a student and budding professional. As someone who holds many marginalized identities, I’ve come up with my own way to describe my experience as a Queer Latinx Woman in STEM: “Angie in STEM.” 2016 has given me the privilege of attending conferences, summits, and workshops aimed to help expand diversity in STEM. It has also given me the privilege to intern for NASA, one of the best scientific research institutions in the country.
In September, I attended the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in New York City, and can I just tell y’all how amazing it was when I walked in? Like, walking into a room filled with women is already overwhelming… but now, they’re mostly LGBTQ-identified AND in Tech? The LWT Summit was the first of its kind that I’ve attended and I’ve never felt more inspired, safe, and empowered in a STEM environment in my life. To see all of the amazing women present on hot topics in the STEM community, about their work, or about how their companies have become more diverse and inclusive really gave me a sense of belonging in the STEM field – something I have been struggling to find throughout my time at NYU.
In November, I attended the oSTEM National Conference, where for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by hundreds of the brightest minds in the LGBTQ community. I was excited to learn how to network and market myself, specifically for summer internships and graduate schools. For me, the word “networking” brings on a whole wave of emotions including fear, nervousness, and my favorite, imposter syndrome. The conference started out with a networking and resume building workshop, where I was able to learn how to network with professionals and was given advice by the actual professionals I would network with later! I couldn’t tell you how relieving it was to be able to feel confident enough to speak to representatives from prospective companies. Besides my septum ring and curly hair, I’ve just never felt that I would stick out to employers when compared to other students in my field. After being able to gain that confidence, receive constructive criticism, and network with LGBTQ-identified professionals/companies with well-supported LGBTQ affinity groups, I feel that I’ve taken a HUGE leap forward in my professional development.
In late December, I watched Hidden Figures, the movie that tells the story of three African-American women who completed groundbreaking work at NASA. The stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson were put on the movie screen for the world to learn more about the contributions Black women made to space travel and other technologies. Throughout the film, I felt a mixture of things – anger, frustration, empathy, happiness, a sense of belonging. I was angry because this was one of the first time in my 22 years of life that I’ve heard about these very important women! I was frustrated and empathetic to the way the women were treated (in terms of being dismissed, workload being diminished, etc.) by the folks they worked with. And I was reminded that I do belong in STEM, that the work I’m doing is important, and that there is a place for me in the engineering and sciences thanks to these hidden figures.
I’ve got some big plans for 2017, including finding an internship in electrical engineering for the summer, doing research in digital signal processing, and applying to graduate programs. With all the resources I’ve taken advantage of and organizations I’ve become a part of – due to my relationship with Point – I feel that I am more prepared and confident than I would’ve been without their support.
This post was written by HSBC Point Scholar Angie Gonzalez.
Angie is currently studying Electrical Engineering & Physics at NYU, where she is an OUTSpoken Peer Educator at the NYU LGBTQ Student Center and the President of an LGBTQ club on campus. Angie aspires to help create and innovate technology for disabled adults and children. Read more about Angie here.