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Commentary: Science and math education empowers women

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Deja Kirk
  • Deja Kirk

Great changes come from one of the simplest forms of language: A sentence. A humble combination of subject and verb can make a difference in the world.

A sentence drives my passion: Women of color should participate and enjoy science and math education and their respective careers.

The subject of the sentence, women of color, is what drives me to become more serious in my pursuit of science. In the media and in life, people are separated by class, gender, race, etc. No one gives these categories a thought. However, when it comes to categorizing women of color, only the color is acknowledged. We need to change our approach of women’s empowerment.

In the aspect of gender, we face the everyday effect of misogyny (the belief that femininity is less than masculinity) in a different way than do our white counterparts. We face sexism along with the consequences of racism.

Women of color are unique, and our struggles are unique. Thus, our empowerment must be unique as well.

The verbs in the sentence are to participate and enjoy, what has started my love of science. Often, when “girl” ad campaigns are launched, the messages are the same. Body image, self-esteem and bullying are common topics, but they only scratch the surface of the potential to empower females young and old.

Girls need to be encouraged to do things outside of common gender roles without those things being classified as “masculine.” Science and math usually make the “masculine” category. What’s worse is they’re also considered too masculine for women — and too intellectual for people of color. These classifications are embedded in minds for generations and are as tangible as the difference in boys and girls aisles in Walmart. Although we cannot change the classifications all at once, we can change the demographic of participation to speed up the process. Following participation must come enjoyment; otherwise, the former will not last.

Lastly is the sentence altogether: Women of color should participate and enjoy science and math education and their respective careers.

This approach for empowerment for women makes it possible by simply going into the subject that society says we are not “supposed” to enjoy. Science Olympiad and Math Counts are competitions for kids from fifth grade to 12th grade that I have participated in for years. My Science Olympiad team has won state three years in a row.

This year, we made our first high school-only debut and placed 39th out of 61 in the nation, the record for a new team. Math Counts is another fun activity in which a test is given to help develop shortcuts to traditionally long math problems. After all, quicker is better, especially if it’s accurate. The highest winners face off in by far the nerdiest death match I have ever seen, and whoever solves it quicker wins.

I encourage you to try to consider careers in these fields. This does not mean you have to be around science 24/7. The nurse possibly needs to become a doctor. That doctor could inspire a little girl just like her and continue the cycle.

That is the power of a sentence.

Deja Kirk is Miss Black Teen Oklahoma and a student at Casady School.

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