Claiming My Education: Black Women in STEM–Knowledge and Inspiration”
by Heaven Silas
“Student Feature” is our blog’s newest addition to the WGS blog. Student-scholars enrolled in WGS courses have consented to share their experiences inside and outside the classroom with the Hope community. Today, Heaven Silas (Communication ’20) reviews Dr. Valerie Taylor’s visit from March 6.
On Wednesday, March 6, 2019, at 7:00PM, in Winants Auditorium, I attended Dr. Valerie Taylor’s “High Performance Computing: A Case for Performance Analysis” lecture. In this event, Dr. Taylor, a STEM expert, gave a lecture to students and faculty members on her research on Computing Analysis and Parallels with Algorithms.
Dr. Taylor discussed the main topics of how power, time, communication, and frequency interact with each other in this specific form of math and science. She summarized her lecture with “High performance computing is important for some applications. Performance is important for efficient deception, and different applications require different strategies for efficiency.”
If I’m being honest, the entire lecture went completely over my head. I am not in any way skilled and or knowledgeable about STEM nor am I familiar with this form of research. I was not able to engage in the learning process of her actual lecture.
However, I was moved in a different way.
Seeing this Black woman as an expert in the STEM disciplines inspired me. Her knowledge and skill level of the subject was amazing, and I was even more excited by how many people had come out to hear her lecture. She was teaching amongst predominantly white people, and specifically white men. These men not only attended, but they were also open to learning from her and receiving all of what she had to share.
This was not a typical event that I have attended–where someone speaks and shares their life experiences; this woman was actually teaching some of her research in detail, and people were taking notes, solving problems, and following along with her lesson. I did also learn (proudly) that 9 megawatts are equivalent to the electricity necessary for 6,000 homes, and the cost of this would be about 9 million dollars. Not sure why, but this fact stood out to me (probably because it was the only thing that I understood).
Attending this event allowed me to see yet another way of Black women exceeding people’s expectations of their intelligence. Not that I had any doubt in my mind that Black women are not intelligent; I have never once thought that (I am, after all, a Black woman). However, our society perceives Black women as unintelligent. In fact, I have learned it is a common stereotype, and a lot of our readings on feminism and women’s rights in my WGS 200 class have spoken about.
For example, in Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, Roxane Gay recounts experiences of racism amongst white men regarding her education. Specifically, she recalls a time when a white male student scoffed at her for getting into her ivy league school: “He looked at me with plain disgust. ‘Affirmative Action’ he sneered, unable to swallow the bitter truth that, I a black girl, had achieved something he could not” (85).
Additionally, in Feminisms Matter, Victoria Bromley discusses how women are often seen as less intelligent than men. Bromley explains that according to dominant assumptions, American women are “supposed” to be “Nurturing, irrational, subordinate, passive, domestic, virginal, and dependent” (3).
Did you see intelligent on that list? Neither did I.
Bromley, Victoria L. Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism. University of Toronto Press, 2012.
Gay, Roxane. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body. Harper Collins, 2017.
Are you a WGS major or minor? Or are you enrolled in a WGS course? Would you like to contribute to “Student Feature”? Email wgs AT hope DOT edu.