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A Conversation about Muslim Girls and Women Making their Mark in STEM - content image

In a recent NYSF webinar, Associate Professor Rashina Hoda, a software engineering expert from Monash University, and Zahraa, a year 12 student from Victoria and NYSF alum, discussed their shared interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) study and careers. They delved into their personal journeys, the factors that sparked their passion for STEM, and the importance of representation in these fields.

Zahraa shared her initial uncertainty about STEM during her upbringing, as her parents didn't have a background in these fields. However, a research project through CSIRO’s CREST program on mycelium tiles in high school ignited her interest in STEM. Zahraa discovered her affinity for physics and maths during her VCE studies, which eventually led her to find her niche interest.

Associate Professor Rashina Hoda recalled her own experience, highlighting her early fascination with physics. A chance encounter with a programming class in school opened up a new world for her. The logical and analytical nature of computer science captivated her, and she decided to pursue software engineering.

Both Zahraa and Rashina acknowledged the significance of representation, particularly for women, women of colour, and Muslim women in STEM. Zahraa emphasized the importance of being aware of one's presence in these spaces and the positive impact it can have. Their unique experiences and achievements challenge stereotypes and inspire other young people from diverse backgrounds to pursue STEM careers.

The conversation also touched upon the challenges faced by those interested in STEM careers without adequate support. Rashina, who received her family’s strong support throughout, highlighted the value of open communication and patience for those who may not receive the same initially. She encouraged individuals to share their projects and explain their passion to their parents or guardians. By demonstrating tangible results and engaging in conversations about STEM, they can gradually gain support and understanding.

Zahraa echoed this sentiment, sharing her own journey of navigating parental expectations and showcasing the results and skills gained through her STEM projects. She emphasised the transformative power of persistence, explaining how her parents became supportive after witnessing her dedication and success.

We also explored Zahraa's experience at the NYSF Year 12 Program in January 2023, a program that connects young people to STEM study, training and careers. Zahraa described the program's impact on her public speaking skills, research experience, and overall personal growth. She highlighted the importance of the program in providing opportunities for young students to immerse themselves in STEM and develop essential skills.

Associate Professor Rashina Hoda and Zahraa's conversation highlights the diverse paths individuals can take to find their passion in STEM. Their insights underscore the significance of representation. By sharing their experiences, both professionals and students contribute to a more inclusive and diverse STEM community. Aspiring STEM enthusiasts are encouraged to explore their interests, communicate their passion, and seize opportunities to shape a future where diversity and excellence thrive.

Watch the full webinar on YouTube