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RIMIKA DHARA

I’m Rimika and am a freshman studying electrical engineering. On campus, I’m involved in Junoon, Engineering World Health and the Women in Engineering chapter of IEEE. When I was younger, for one of my birthdays my parents gave me a book about space, stars, and astronomy. I wanted to become an astronaut. After a few years, that dream morphed from being an astronaut in space to pursuing a career on earth within computer engineering. 

 

Both of my parents are in the STEM field; they’re both software engineers. They have always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. However, I started hesitating to get into the STEM field when I discussed it with my dance teacher and relatives in India. Sharing my dream to pursue Engineering with them first introduced me to internalized misogyny in communities, especially in India. I was faced with a lot of questions and concerns: “Why do you want to pursue engineering? You’re not smart enough.” “You won’t ever be able to get through it, you should probably start cooking and cleaning.” It was extremely demeaning to see everyone except my parents look down upon my ambitions. 

 

Most of the time, even now, I’m the one of the only girls in my classes I know. It can be extremely empowering at times, but mostly it’s oppressive. From being mansplained to not even being heard during discussions, the experience can be discrediting. However, witnessing my mom and other girls in my classes achieving their goals in spite of these barriers has been extremely inspiring and helpful.

 

Conversations with my mom about the STEM field have been helpful. When she was in school, computer engineering was just developing. She reminded me that my opinions matter and I truly belong in this field if I’m passionate about it. She said, “at the end of the day, Rimika, you are the only person truly vouching for your success. You are good enough and strong enough to tackle these issues. In moments of doubt, remind yourself that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.