WiSTEM Feature: Ananya Asthana
For Women’s History Month we’re partnering with an amazing global organization: Women in STEM (WiSTEM)
Today we feature one of their wonderful ambassadors and founder, Ananya Asthana a student currently attending the University of Chicago Lab High School:
ILLResearch: How did you come to be the founder of WiSTEM?
Ananya: I founded Women in STEM when I was 14 and a freshman in high school after recognizing the gender disparity within my own school in STEM extracurriculars and high-level STEM classes. I reached out to other high schools in the area, and it quickly became apparent that there was a lack of a social network and support system for young women, particularly in high school. Since then, I have been working to expand our chapter network and further our mission.
ILLResearch: How did you choose your field of study?
Ananya: I used to be particularly interested in pursuing applied mathematics or some sort of pure STEM topics, but after building WiSTEM, I recognized my passion for social impact and organizational, cause-driven leadership. This is why, in college, I hope to pursue social innovation and entrepreneurship to hone these skills and work to tackle social issues with unique approaches.
ILLResearch: Why is the work you do with Women in STEM important?
Ananya: The work we do with Women in STEM is important, because we take a social approach to the issue. There are several organizations for girls to gain the technical skills necessary to pursue STEM. However, there is a lack of a social support system for young women, particularly in high school. Girls often drop out of STEM, because they feel that they’re alone in their journey, given the lack of role models and representation. However, WiSTEM provides an opportunity for girls to get to know over 450 girls who are passionate about the same topics they are across the country. Through launching outreach with elementary schoolers, mentorship with university students, and networking initiatives with successful professors/professionals, we tackle the issue at all stages of the leaky pipeline and ensure that our members have access to a variety of different resources that empower them to pursue their own passions.
ILLResearch: What are you future aspirations and goals?
Ananya: I hope to continue to participate in cause-driven leadership. I have been lucky to be a part of WiSTEM, as it has given me the ability to work with driven teammates on a program we’re all passionate about. As I move forward, I want to be able to participate in something similar. I’m not quite sure exactly what career path I want to pursue, but I know that I want to be a part of a perpetual and constant learning experience that motivates and challenges me.
ILLResearch: What piece of advice would you give to yourself 3 years ago? *
Ananya: I would tell myself not to be afraid of reaching out. After working on WiSTEM, I understand that people are willing to help, I just need to ask. I’ve sent hundreds of cold emails to professors, professionals, and organizations that I’m interested in working with or talking to, and there, obviously, will be people who don’t respond. But, the ones who respond are people that will support you in your goals and mission and who will be integral to your success. This fearlessness in networking and building relationships can yield some of the most rewarding results, and I wish that I had known that earlier.
ILLResearch: What have you learned from being a part of Women in STEM that you will take with you in your future endeavors?
Ananya: As I mentioned earlier, the power of relationship-building and reaching out is something that I will definitely take with me. Along with this, I think I will take the leadership experience with me personally. I was able to communicate with so many different people, hear various perspectives, and build long-lasting friendships through the program, and I’m excited to take those all with me in my future endeavors.
ILLResearch: What obstacles (if any) have you faced to get to where you are today?
Ananya: We’re all busy high school students, and that means two things. One — it’s much more difficult to build connections with people and professionals as some people don’t take high schoolers very seriously. Two — we’re busy with tests, homework, extracurriculars. It’s tough to accomplish everything that we want to with the organization given all of our other commitments. However, these two obstacles are also assets; As high schoolers, we have fresh determination to accomplish what we want to, and we gain experience balancing our passions and commitments at a young age.
Thank you to Ananya and WiSTEM for participating in this wonderful collaboration and be sure to read the interviews with the other ambassadors on this blog and our instagram!
You can follow us and WiSTEM on instagram to stay up to date with our Women’s History Month’s and visit https://womeninstem.org/ to learn more about Women in STEM and how you can become involved on your campus or school!
About Women in STEM(WiSTEM):
Founded in 2017 at the University of Chicago Lab Schools by Ananya Asthana.
Women in STEM (WiSTEM), aims to “empower and inspire girls through offering a variety of opportunities at the high school level”.