STEM Story: Charlene Rocha
It’s Worth It: Charlene Rocha “Our past, present, and future are all intertwined with STEM careers and it demands intersectionality.” My name is Charlene Rocha and I am a 16-year-old human rights and environmental activist. One of my BIGGEST passions in life is climate justice. I work with FridaysforFuture and Climate Strike Canada--as well and strike with them regularly. Through working with a team of people to coordinate our Toronto strikes, we bring thousands of people together for a cause. I give motivational talks at these rallies and use my voice to do chants to encourage and inspire others. I've worked on the social media side for the David Suzuki Foundation, Seventh Generations, and similar organizations. My hope for my future is to combine my two passions: engineering and climate justice. I'm an aspiring software engineer and love learning about how I can change the world. Throughout history, inspiring leaders have paved the path for us to positively leave impacts and use our knowledge for good. Still, through seeing the lack of diversity in STEM programs and careers, I’ve wondered…Why? Why are girls not exploring these amazing career options? The answer is simple. They don’t see it as an option. Many girls are afraid to enter male-dominated careers, are discouraged because of the stereotypes the career has on it, dislike the work environment created by peers, or simply aren’t given the opportunities to pursue it. While it’s unfortunate, we need to close this gap and help include women in this amazing conversation for change. Last year, I was chosen as one of WEMADEIT’s 5 young women to discuss gender discrimination in the work force. Together, on the Day of the Girl, we spoke out against discrimination. I had the opportunity to speak with engineers that were girls and learned some of the struggles they faced. No matter who we talked to, they all had one common message. This journey may be difficult, but it is totally worth it. They did experience roadblocks and had to fight to be where they were, but it made them so much stronger. These interviews and conversations are what pushed and inspired me to ignore these barriers and work hard to get where I want to be. Even in computer courses I take in high school, being the only girl can be daunting. Whenever I’m feeling out of place and not sure if I’m ready to face uncomfortable situations like this, I look at the number of amazing women that DID have the courage and DID accomplish amazing things because of it. I remind myself that this is my passion, and this is something that I want to pursue. It’s important that we reach out and build solidarity through creating a community of supporters. We are not alone, and all want to see the common goal of closing that career gap and having an inclusive space where we can all make our dreams a reality.