Women have historically been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math — STEM — fields. It doesn’t have to be that way.
It’s not lack of intelligence that keeps young women out of STEM fields. Rather it’s a lack of confidence. That is, having to overcome societal stereotypes and environmental factors that lead so many young women lose interest in science, technology, engineering and math early on in school.
A recent young women’s summit in the heart of Silicon Valley sought to help counter this trend. The event at Levi’s stadium brought together middle school girls with a swath of powerful and well-connected women in technology and other fields.
The day’s events entered around hands-on mentoring. The professional women told stories of perseverance and persistence, in an accessible and chatty interview-style setting.
Maria Shriver, award-winning journalist and a former California first lady, wowed the young crowd in her keynote speech on perseverance and persistence. Even though many attended didn’t have much context or background on Shriver’s professional accomplishments, her words came through powerfully.
“Be smart about your finances. Be smart about your education. Understand there is no Prince Charming coming on a white horse to rescue you. You have to rescue yourself every single day. That’s where power comes from knowing you can take care of yourself.”
She reminded the young women to not get caught up in the “what’s next” philosophy. That’s the barrage of negative commentary that belittles achievement by constantly asking to fulfill the next thing.
Shriver, a niece of the late President John F. Kennedy, mentioned what can happen when a woman pairs up. “After you find a partner, they’ll ask you what’s next,” Shriver said. “When you get married, they’ll ask you what’s next. After you have a baby, they’ll ask you what’s next.” You’re always caught up in the ‘what's next.’”
Shriver’s words were a brilliant reminder to disconnect from societal pressure by going inward. She encouraged the young women to explore their interests and look at what they really wanted to do.
That’s actually a reminder to us all. Because once you go inward you won’t have to worry about what’s happening next. You'll just know.