This blog has been neglected for the entirety of my senior year at Simmons College. With research, courses, applications for graduate schools, and planning for graduation, I just didn’t have time to dedicate to writing and sharing my thoughts the way I had been for almost a year. But after graduation, I felt that familiar pull to write about my passions. And I found inspiration in the very title of my blog.
I often think back to times where I am discussing She’s the First with students or faculty at Simmons or at the annual STF Leadership Summit. After some great conversations, I am asked what my major is. Without skipping a beat, I explain that I am majoring in Neuroscience and Behavior with a minor in Biostatitics. This is met with blank stares or surprised exclamations. “Neuroscience?? How does that fit with STF?” Well, I have two passions: quality education for girls around the world and the science of the brain. In other words, ladies and brains. People – and sometimes I – have trouble understanding how I can be so passionate about such seemingly different fields. It’s taken me about four years for me to piece it together.
According to a fact sheet (STEM Depiction Opportunities) from whitehouse.gov, there is a very real disparity between the genders and opportunities for careers in STEM fields. A National Math and Science Initiative article called The STEM Crisis supports this claim, saying “women represent 48 percent of the workforce, but only 24 percent of STEM jobs.” And this is only in the United States. The STEM portion of the No Ceilings Project states that there are global barriers blocking girls and women in low-income countries from participating in fields that focus on math and science. As a woman entering a STEM field, I am passionate about bridging the gap between men and women in STEM. This is the relatively obvious response that I give people inquiring about the connection between girls’ education and neuroscience, but there is also a more subtle answer that I only just discovered.
Neuroscience is a relatively new field compared to other fields of science. For thousands of years, the heart was thought to be the seat of intelligence and once psychology was established, many supported the theory of dualism, where consciousness was believed to be non-physical and not subject to mechanisms in the brain. It took something unexpected for scientists to begin to make a connection between the brain and cognitive functioning; it took stories. As Sam Kean said in his novel The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons, “Stories probably mean more to neuroscience than to any other scientific field.” From H.M. and his invaluable contributions to our understanding of the structures underlying memory, to Phineas Gage and what we learned from him about localization and the role of the frontal lobe in personality, stories of ordinary people undergoing extraordinary experiences have shaped neuroscience.
As Founder and CEO of STF, Tammy Tibbetts (check out her website HERE!), always tells our campus chapters, storytelling is vitally important in the realm of girls’ education. STF constantly provides a platform to describe our on-campus fundraising achievements, explain the personal effect that STF has had on our lives, and – most importantly – share the stories of our STF scholars. From Maheshwari and her journey to overcome her label as an untouchable in India and accomplish her goal to study science, to Fatou and her constant determination to become one of the first female photographers in The Gambia (Celebrating International Women’s Day 2015), STF shares the stories of girls around the world through short documentaries. You can see this in many organizations involved in girls’ education. The Malala Fund has even shared the inspirational story of Malala Yousafzai in the form of a full-length documentary. It is stories that lead to donations and volunteers. Stories make people feel.
Stories unite my two passions. I love the constant flow of information from both the field of neuroscience and STF and I adore sharing the knowledge I have with others.
It seems that my two interests are also being combined in unexpected ways, which can be seen from two recent additions to my reading list: Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences and Neurofeminism: Issues at the Intersection of Feminist Theory and Cognitive Science.
My passions may just be more related than people think.