The Sixth Grade STEMinist

Day of the Girl , International Day of the Girl

By: Libby Foster, 2018-2019 Girl Up Teen Advisor

Behind each successful woman is an equally successful #girlhero. I was lucky enough to find my own sitting across from me in a poorly lit sixth grade science classroom. Her name was Shivani Nellore, and she is my best friend, Girl Up Club Co-President, and STEM #girlhero.

Throughout our shared childhoods, Shivani excelled in the face of gender-based discrimination during math and science competitions. Often, she would be one of the few girls competing at the the state or national level for her STEM-based subject, and this would cause her male competitors to be even more aggressive towards her. Nothing stops Shivani, though. In eighth grade, as I took the podium for Social Studies State Champion, she took the title for Mathematics. Each boy so contentiously confident in their intellectual superiority earlier that day fell silent.

Today, Shivani uses the determination she found early to create positive impact. Over the past two summers, she has worked tirelessly with a research team at the National Institute of Health exploring the role a protein has in promoting cancer. Upon receiving the Emperor Science Award for her incredible research, she donated all of the prize money to Girl Up’s School Cycle Initiative. Shivani is as benevolent as she is powerful, as soft-spoken as she is profound, and as humble as she is accomplished. She has truly been my inspiration and my STEM #girlhero.

Girls like Shivani and I should enter STEM fields in order to provide a much-needed perspective. To date, women only hold 24 percent of STEM jobs in the United States, according to the Economics and Statistics Administration. This discrepancy in representation leads to a discrepancy in input. Without the voices of women, STEM-based innovation will never be as truly inclusive or groundbreaking. In addition, girls will use their knowledge of STEM to create social change. The “Her Gen Z World Report” from Girl Up found that 70% of girls worldwide believe that their lives need to make a positive difference, and this can be achieved through STEM. With a new generation of female engineers, doctors, biologists, physicists, and mathematicians, the possibilities for progressive impact would be endless.

To me, STEM opens the door to change the world and have job security while doing it. It is our time to be strong in the face of obstacles and find knowledge capable of creating social good.

To become someone else’s sixth grade, junior year, or 35-year-old STEM #girlhero, visit