Ynés Mexía: We need to learn more about BIPOC in STEM

In collaboration with Ciencia Para Todos

Being a first-generation womyn of color has given me the perspective to see what institutions lack. Educational institutions seem to uphold a specific identity to high standards, a White educated man being one. We see a cycle of power and privilege that only a certain few individuals hold, which lead to the progression of science with biased perspectives and what we really need is more equitable representation in our learning. Ynés Mexía was able to contribute so much to her field of study and deserves the hype. 

I first heard about Mexía through a classmate taking Botany. His professor had a section titled “Botany contributors” for students to learn about Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC) who have not received enough credit for their contributions to the STEM fields. 

Looking more into Mexía, I found out she did similar work to Darwin, yet she and many others were never mentioned in my educational career. I continuously learned the same material on Darwin’s theory of natural selection, and somewhere along the line, I seemed to adopt the idea that womyn were not involved in this work. 

I was wrong; Mexía decided to pursue a career in her late 50s at the University of Berkley. She went on solo expeditions for 13 years, was one of the first womyn to travel alone by plane, and collected over 145,000 specimens. Fifty of these specimens were named after her. Mexia was able to contribute so much to her field of study and paved the way for womyn to participate in research expeditions. Mexia has not received enough credit but as a womyn who fought against patriarchal, sexist, gendered ideals that create doubt about womyns’ abilities, she deserves more hype. 

While Darwin’s theories are useful information, as an individual, I did not feel represented by an educated White man. I now realize how that reflected my beliefs of not feeling like I could pursue a STEM-related field. 

To bridge the gap, we need to be more inclusive and have representation within our curriculum. We need to hear and tell the stories of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ individuals throughout history. White supremacy is upheld the second you refuse to mention other groups that were also a part of that history. 

It is fantastic to hear the concepts and frameworks that created the majors we choose to pursue, but as a BIPOC it is difficult to identify with the work of only white individuals.

I am grateful for those professors who make an effort to bridge this gap and inspire Womyn, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ individuals by telling the stories that represent us. I only ask those who haven’t considered making an effort, to do better. As a society, we can only evolve when we feel represented and have the space to be heard and not be shut down by white supremacy. 

I have added a list of conferences and organizations that do this work to inspire those who will need to rise above all odds despite being in the seat of marginalization. I hope this inspires and brings about awareness to all, do not let those limiting beliefs make you think you are incapable. We all have greatness within us that can contribute significantly to our Earth and those that coexist within it. 

* Image by Mónica Jarquín Marcial

  • The WOC Conference March 11-13: This conference is partnered with Dear Asian Youth, Diversify our Narrative, Zenerations and Afro Puff Chronicles and will have panels not only for WOC in STEM but also for those in Performing Arts, Business, Media, Film, Activism, and Politics. From their website: “We’re claiming 2021 to be #TheYearoftheGirl! We’re cultivating 2021 as a time for girls of color to grow, become empowered, and thrive. The Women of Color Conference is just the start of a female empowerment movement! Grant Opportunities as well.” Registration for WOC conference
  • The WOC Conference March 11-13: This conference is partnered with Dear Asian Youth, Diversify our Narrative, Zenerations and Afro Puff Chronicles and will have panels not only for WOC in STEM but also for those in Performing Arts, Business, Media, Film, Activism, and Politics. Registration for WOC conference
  • Woman Outdoor Summit March 20-21: A three-day virtual event geared towards cis and trans women as well as people who experience gender discrimination in their outdoor professional and personal lives. There will be messages from Congresswoman Deb Haaland, Kristy Drutman of podcast “Brown Girl Green”, Cindy Villaseñor garden and low waste educator, and many more!  Outdoor Summit Registration-free
  • The STEM Gap -AAUW: Learn more about the STEM gap: Women and Girls in science, technology, engineering and math. How they are systematically tracked away from science and math throughout their education. Explore fellowships and grants, ways to get empowered and ways to take action as an activist or partner. 

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