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Storytelling for a cause: Reducing the gender gap in the sciences with Divya Gangaramani

For The International Day of Women and Girls in Science, we connected with Diploma Programme (DP) student Divya Gangaramani of the SVKM International School in Mumbai, India to share the podcast project she created to inspire more young women to pursue their interests in STEM.

Storytelling for a cause: Reducing the gender gap in the sciences with Divya Gangaramani

By Divya Gangaramani

Each year on February 11, the United Nations focuses on the importance of women and girls in science fields. The International Day of Women and Girls in Science aims to highlight the critical and influential roles that women and girls play in science and technology. By supporting gender equality, we can open up new opportunities to develop unique perspectives and ideas to help solve the world’s most pressing issues. We hear how one young student, Divya Gangaramani, began sharing stories from women in STEM on her podcast to allow young girls to gain insight and advice as they followed a career in STEM.

Do you have a teacher or mentor in your field that has helped inspire you? 

Absolutely! I believe the English language and literature course in the IB Diploma Programme (DP) engages with a plethora of global issues around the world. My teacher often touched upon global issues such as gender inequality, the class hierarchy as well as migration. However, gender inequality being one of the most prevalent, led my interest in researching upon the depth of it and my interest in bringing about a change. Hence, when I came across various concerns that manifest in fields such as education, culture, economics and politics, I felt the desire to make an impact 

What inspired you to seek out stories from women in STEM in your podcast? (and why is it important to share stories about women in the field)? 

I aimed at creating diversity in order to gain and spread knowledge through different experiences of these women”.

Since childhood, I have been mindful of the representation of scientific inventors in textbooks, typically physics and chemistry, that represented scientists and discoveries only done by males. This curiosity did not terminate. In high school, I have observed in my surroundings the number of people that have a subject combination consisting of math or physics higher level (HL) course, which is a necessary requirement to study STEM. There are about two girls (including me), who have taken physics HL out of 21 and about three out of 26 in Math HL. Furthermore, being a high school student and aspiring to become an environmental engineer, I often watched vlogs and read about the daily scenarios of people and their university life. Most videos did slightly touch upon the idea of how women weren’t really contributing to the majority in STEM-related classes. This sparked my interest to research about the extent to which women were disadvantaged in this field.  

Upon research, I realized that women contribute to about 49% of the population, out of which only 27% have accounted for STEM qualified industries. I believe this under-representation has been as a result of stereotypes that need to be altered. Coming from a family of various successful women engineers and businesswomen, I was never exposed to this matter! To gain a hands-on experience by understanding the obstacles faced in the lives of various women engineers all over the world in my reach, I tried to initiate a conversational segment to empower women to speak about their journey as well as exhort those interested to pursue STEM. I started a podcast as I believe it was an undervalued platform to share one’s insights and stories. The women I interviewed ranged from different backgrounds, some came from local colleges in India whereas some were graduates of Columbia and the University of Michigan 

I hope this can show young girls how important it is to follow one’s passion, despite the obstacles that may come one’s way”.

Listen to Divya’s interviews with her fellow women in science:

I aimed at creating diversity in order to gain and spread knowledge through different experiences of these women. Each one of the guests had a unique story to share about their experience hitting barriers in their work as women in STEM and advice to help others navigate. For example, it was common to hear the women say that they weren’t made project leaders as their professors believed males are more capable and stronger or not having their voices being taken into account and also noting how classes consistently had noticeably fewer women, where you might be one of only three women in a class of 100 people. 

In addition, the main aim of this podcast was to spread awareness about the under-representation of women in STEM through individual journeys, anecdotes and advice from experienced women with different backgrounds. I hope this can show young girls how important it is to follow one’s passion, despite the obstacles that may come one’s way. Each of the women I interviewed has struggled through various obstacles including gender bias to shape who they are today. 

Why do you think it is important for girls to have access to science courses? 

Women do have dreams and aspirations that pertain to their interest and passion. If they are underrepresented in a field such as STEM, which plays a key role pervading in our day-to-day life, we are limiting the amount of productivity and innovations in this field. Providing a solution to this can aid in solving issues such as the gender pay gap, security and role models.  

What changes do you hope to see in the STEM field to make education more accessible to women and girls? 

Seeing an increase in the percent of women in STEM would only be possible if women are given value and appreciation for their contribution to STEM”

With people becoming more aware of this issue, I hope to see changes such as an increase in the percentage of women pertaining to STEM and a culture where women will be appreciated for their contribution towards STEM, thus encouraging others to take up this field. Furthermore, I would expect families, who play a vital role in decision making, to initiate their daughters to follow their passion despite the stereotypes or the male-dominated culture, which would in turn again encourage other women to take the path that follows their interests. Seeing an increase in the percent of women in STEM would only be possible if women are given value and appreciation for their contribution to STEM, even if it means overcoming an obstacle or finding a discovery in this field. Empowerment and encouragement may lead to more women considering this field as a career path! 

What advice do you have for girls considering a career in the sciences? 

I consider it as important to first, be passionate about what you wish to pursue in the future. It is also necessary to remain focused and not get distracted by what your peers or what ‘society’ thinks about your career path. By pursuing a career in STEM, women can indirectly inspire other women who may not have been able to see that path for themselves Thus, one can become a role model for them without actually realizing it. It is also a must to make sure that the idea of belonging to the minority doesn’t predict your success rate in this field. If you are deeply passionate about something, nothing should stop you from pursuing it! 

Divya 600

Divya Gangaramani is a Diploma Programme (DP) year two student at the SVKM International School in Mumbai, India. She describes herself as ambitious and visionary. She enjoys meditating, star-gazing and considers herself to be an epicure for ramen! Contributing to her thinking with a futuristic perspective, she wishes to study renewable engineering as her major, probably pursuing it as her career with a tinge of business

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