This week, I am being recognized as a White House Champion of Change for encouraging girls to go into STEM fields. Growing up, I knew little about what engineering was, let alone think I would be invited to the White House because of it.
As a young girl in Dallas raised by a single father in challenging circumstances, I didn’t grow up in a house where professions like engineering and STEM careers were discussed. Girls Inc. was truly my support system. The women staff and volunteers would welcome me every day and told me that the sky is the limit. They exposed me to women in careers I did not know about, like engineering, law, entrepreneurship, and the arts. For my sister Ski, now a junior at Grambling State University, and me, Girls Inc. inspired us to express ourselves freely and want to become more than what we thought we would be. This exposure and strong, smart, and bold mindset gave me the courage to choose a non-traditional profession.
So when I decided to attend the Science and Engineering Magnet at Yvonne E. Townview Center for high school, I somewhat understood I would be one of the only African American girls in most of my classes. I noticed quickly that I was not getting called on as frequently as my schoolmates and that got really frustrating. But I transitioned the confidence I gained at Girls Inc. into the classroom and began to make my answers heard, sometimes blurting out the correct answer.
Now, I am a senior at Howard University in Washington, DC. I’m the President Engineers Without Borders-Howard University and have traveled to do volunteer work in Kenya, Brazil, and Haiti. Upon receiving my B.S. in Chemical Engineering, I hope to pursue a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Environmental Engineering with a focus in international development. Meanwhile, when I am not studying, teaching, or sleeping, I am at my local Girls Inc. in DC, making sure girls get the exposure I had to know these types of careers exist, and see that women are successful in them. There, I give girls skills and guidance to know that they have the smarts, determination, and passion to be the STEM innovators of the future.
Even if you’re not a scientist, you can help too. Share our Champions of Change stories with girls you know. Buy a girl a chemistry set for her birthday. Put more videos and photos of girls and women in STEM out in the media. And support programs like Girls Inc. that help girls like me discover STEM as an exciting path for a bright future.
Bianca Bailey is a Girls Inc. Alumna and Chemical Engineering Student at Howard University