Hi, I’d like you to meet my mom. She has been an electrical engineer for NASA for over thirty-five years, has raised four children and is going into her tenth year of involvement with FIRST Robotics. First, she is my mother. She raises me, encourages me, feeds me (when I’m home from college) and loves me. She is also my mentor. She founded our FRC team and, as a Woodie Flowers Finalist, has served as the mentor for electrical, programming, awards, finance, website, etc. etc.
As my mom and my mentor, she is clearly a role model for my sister and me (and others, but they don’t get to call her mom, although a few have). So while I have technical female role models from history (Marie Curie and Emmy Noether, the names of my first two computers) I also always have a role model at home. And as anyone who has looked into it will tell you, having female role models is critical increasing the number of women in STEM.
The reason female role models are helpful is because they give young women someone to look up to, someone to connect with. If you see someone you identify with doing item X, it makes it easier for you to picture yourself doing item X.
Role models and mentors can be critical to development. They can inspire you and guide you when you need advice. One of a mentor’s most important roles is to always give their students the little extra push they might need to reach their full potential.
If you are a student or of student age (high school or college) then this might be easy advice for you to take. Or at least, easy advice for you to agree with. But I would like to challenge you one step further:
Be a role model.
I don’t care that you are young and still learning. If you do life correctly, you will always be learning. Every role model has a role model so why not be someone else’s role model?
I’ll ignore the fact that with the number of STEM women as it is we need all the technical female role models we can get. You already know that.
I’ll ignore the fact that you owe it to the community. That people took the time to mentor you and you should return the favor to the next generation by giving them your time. You already feel that.
What I won’t ignore and what you shouldn’t ignore is that you have the power to inspire others. You could change someone’s life. That’s a big responsibility but it’s also a big honor. Embrace that. Channel that. Use that.
My mom does. It’s changed my life and those of many others. Now that it’s becoming our turn, we’ll see what we can do.
This blog was written by Rachel Holladay, an alumna of FRC 1912 Combustion, a current mentor of FRC 3504 Girls of Steel and a computer science and robotics student at Carnegie Mellon University. If you are interested in writing a blog, please sign up on the schedule.
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