When my sister, Ekta Vashdev Kishnani (Geetu), lost her life to COVID on February 6 of this year, she was living in Madrid. Due to travel restrictions, I had to stay at home in Dallas while she fought for, and lost, her life in the hospital there. I am devastated but working to move forward, and I wanted to do something big to honor her memory.
My name is Dr. Koshi Dhingra and personally, I have dedicated my career to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. I’m passionate about having every child live up to their potential. Seeing a lack of girls and other underrepresented youth in STEM programs, I founded the nonprofit talkSTEM in 2015 to address the imbalance.
Ekta was a woman who did not identify herself as a STEM person and yet was a talented cook, artist, and enjoyed mental math. I think that’s the case with so many women and girls to say “I’m not good at science” or “I can’t do math”. This mindset is likely why women make up half of the U.S. workforce, yet only 28% are in STEM professions.
My small team at talkSTEM had already been working on building a virtual exhibition called Her STEMlens to showcase a diversity of STEM moments contributed by girls and women nationwide. I knew that this would be the perfect way to honor my sister’s memory.
My sister truly embodies the spirit of the exhibition which focuses on math and science in real-world activities, objects, and spaces. She represents women everywhere, who serve as anchors and guiding lights to their families, communities, and the world. It is because of women like Ekta that this exhibition is possible.
In addition to the heartbreaking effect that COVID has had on my family, it has also made it more difficult for other families to do fun STEM activities together like visiting museums, and I wanted to fix that. Giving girls an outlet to become curious about the world around them and adopt a STEM mindset is so important.
February 11 was the annual International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a United Nations initiative that aims to “achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls”.
In the spirit of this day, #herSTEMlens was launched to fulfill the need for STEM activities while also encouraging girls to adopt that inquisitive STEM mindset, and it will continue through to May 31.
I’d like to recognize our founding partner Comerica and community partners The National Girls Collaborative Project, Nepris, ChickTech and Million Women Mentors, without whom, this would not be possible.
To learn more, go to talkSTEM.org.
WRITTEN BY Dr. Koshi Dhingra of talkSTEM