I sat in my AP Computer Science classroom, searching for a group of girls to make
friends with, but I came to the sinking realization that, aside from me, there was only one other girl taking the class. In such a large public school, I expected there to be a fifty-fifty split in the gender make-up; I was disheartened to notice otherwise. Regardless, I went through the year with the same boys I’d worked with on the robotics team in the fifth grade, only to quit in middle school after noticing that no one resembled me.
One thing I did notice after years of shying away from places without people like me
was the recurring thought of being treated differently. I hated being the center of attention,
especially when the air was filled with a palpable sense of not fitting in. Whenever I saw a
special opportunity given to only females in STEM, I wanted to apply, but it felt rather odd, like I was only being recognized because of my gender. After all, if I were male, no matter how good with technology I was, I would never be able to apply for any prestigious female-only awards...
Although no one dared say it, I always felt as if people only considered me “good
at computing” because no other females were doing so alongside me. It was as if I was in a
one-person race. Boasting that I got first place wasn’t reasonable; it didn’t make sense. I
realized early on that if I ever got selected for a tech scholarship, it would be because I was
a female who was only competing against a small pool of other females. I always thought
that there was some male out there who deserved it more than me.
Now, I’m sure we’ve all had these thoughts, that we aren’t worthy enough of a position,
regardless of how much hard work we put into achieving it. It wasn’t until last year that I
realized there was a name to this unfounded way of thinking: Imposter Syndrome. When
constantly told that the field we are most passionate about is one that “belongs” to males, we
start to avoid places or situations where we don’t fit in. We’ve been locked into this narrative
from a very young age, as young as when we were told that video-games are “guy” things.
But, are we actually worthy?
Simply told, we are just as worthy and just as capable as our male counterparts. The
extra opportunities for females, as I’ve realized, are there to direct many towards the right path.
We can’t be so quick to think that we are afforded such opportunities at the expense of “more deserving people.” We are the deserving people. There have come many times where I’ve considered quitting because computing “wasn’t my thing.” But as I looked around my class one more time, I realized that it was up to us to combat the antithesis that “technology is a boy thing.” We have to forge a covenant for ourselves in a world where we’re held at a disadvantage. We hold obligations to our later generations, for we must pave a path for them to succeed.
We have a purpose. We have skill. We’re no imposters.
Let’s rid this mindset.
We can rise together.