Women Who Reign: Emily Koehne
“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”
— Albert Einstein
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
I am a 17 year old high school senior on an academic scholarship in a STEM program. I am the Founder and CEO of STEMilyK, an organization dedicated to increasing the amount of girls interested in STEM. I accomplish this by meeting with some of the top women in STEM and interviewing them. I post the interviews on STEMilyK.org so that all girls, no matter what socioeconomic background they come from, can have access to a panel of women in STEM role models. Not only do my interviews provide girls with women in STEM role models, but they also shed light on jobs that girls are typically unaware of, such as an actuary or a structural engineer. My hope is that girls can see that pursuing a career in STEM does not mean being trapped in a lab all day or doing extremely hard math problems for hours on end. Rather, it means that you are changing the world everyday you go to work.
A fun fact about myself is that I hate coffee!
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
My favorite website right now is change.org because it provides anyone, no matter where they live or what their economic background may be, to get involved with social justice issues. They can find what they are passionate about and sign a petition, or they can post something that they would like to see changed and spread their message with the world.
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
Someone who inspires me is Katherine Johnson. I can not describe in words the utter shock and frustration I felt after watching Hidden Figures. It scares me to think about the fact that if I was born in a different time period, STEMilyK would not exist. I accredit my life to and am eternally grateful to the women who paved the path for girls like myself to have the opportunity to achieve our STEM dreams. Learning about Katherine Johnson’s life made me realize that she did not fight against a patriarchy in STEM for me to not use my voice for good.
Song that makes you want to dance:
“Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato has been my favorite song recently. The song reminds me to not care what other people think about you, and to be yourself. It gives me confidence to face the day, and to be proud of who I am. It is also the most amazing song to jam out to with my best friends.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
Because of the lack of representation of women in STEM in the media, I never even knew what STEM meant until I went to high school. Even so, when the rare occasion occurred that a STEM girl was represented in the media, they were always portrayed in a negative fashion. This caused me to believe that I did not belong in STEM because I loved public speaking, fashion, and basketball along with STEM. I never thought that I would be able to combine my love of other interests with STEM, because it was never portrayed as possible. I found it especially hard to be comfortable with myself because being interested in STEM was not considered “cool.” I remember the feeling I had that I needed to hide the fact that I got a 100 on my science test, yet when my basketball team won the championship, I was able to be proud of myself without the fear of being made fun of. Becoming comfortable with myself was a long process, but once my confidence grew, I knew that there must be other girls that faced the same struggle. I felt that I had an obligation to help them in any way possible.
My dream is to be the Bill Nye the Science Guy of the 21st century. I always think about the tremendous impact having my own TV show about STEM topics and careers could have on the next generation of girls. If this does not work out, I would love to be the CEO of a major STEM company or work at Disney to create their very first STEM princess.
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
I would say that the key for women to reign their lives is to never be afraid of the word no. It sounds really simple, but a lot of women often are scared to ask their boss something or to ask classmates to form a study group because they are afraid that people will say no or ignore them. I would not be where I am today if I was scared of people saying no to me. When I first started STEMilyK, I did not know any women in STEM. I have been able to sit down and interview CEOs and other accomplished women all because I took a chance and emailed them. Have I sent out emails and been ignored or rejected? Of course! The important thing is that I took every no or no response as a challenge to find a woman even better to contact. You just never know where the chances you take in life may lead you.