I am Laeh Dean and I am a senior at the Independent School. I enjoy athletics such as volleyball, basketball, softball, and soccer. I also enjoy academic activities and having fun with my friends. I plan to attend Xavier University of Louisiana next fall and pursue a degree in biology on a pre-med track. Girl Talk has played a crucial role in my life since I was in the sixth grade and I attended it as a middle schooler. Girl talk meetings as a middle schooler were some of the earliest times I felt empowered and confident. Women empowerment is pivotal to me because I want girls across the world to look at all career options as possibilities.

How has your involvement within Girl Talk impacted you as a leader and influenced your leadership skills?

I was not born with leadership skills. In fact, as a child, I was shy and quiet and oftentimes overlooked. Attending Girl Talk as a middle schooler made me feel seen. This program has shown me that leadership is not only your ability to guide and instruct others but it is also the ability to make others feel seen. Girl Talk has also displayed the importance of leading by example. My school is quite small so I often see the younger girls on campus. It is so important to me that when they see me they see someone that they can look up to. In the past, when I attended Girl Talk as a middle schooler, the high schoolers provided an outstanding precedent for me and I felt that it was important to continue that legacy for future middle schoolers. Through Girl Talk, I learned that leadership is not a title or a position given to you, it is a quality of character.

What is your STEM background?

My background in STEM originated from when I was a little girl. I have always taken a serious interest in science. I asked for Barbie’s chemistry playset for my 11th birthday present and a microscope for my 14th birthday present. This was discouraged in more ways than one. My love for science was discouraged in more ways than one. I was often teased by my siblings and my classmates in a loving way for my interest in science. In high school, my love for learning and the edification of science only grew. My interest became focused on biology in my freshman year when I took the class. My teacher’s love for the subject only made me more invested in it. Soon I was joining biology club and environmental action club as a way to manifest my curiosity and interest in science. The quality of science that I most enjoy is that science is evergrowing. The information we know and continue to learn will never fit in a textbook and the more we learn about science the more that we realize that we know so little about it. This is something that inspires me greatly. Science is truly remarkable because it has so many different opportunities wrapped up in it. Its implementations into the world we know are so diverse and that is where my love for science stems from. 

What appeals to you about becoming a woman in a STEM related field?

I am a black woman and I have faced discrimination in many forms. I went to a predominately white institution and was the only black girl in my grade until I was in high school. This posed a lot of challenges for me. Not only was I a girl who struggled with feeling inferior, but I also was black so I rarely saw people who looked like me at school. This was disheartening, to say the least, because I never felt as if I fit into the standard held by those around me. I felt as if I was abnormal for not enjoying things, such as science and school, that other people my age were enjoying. I also rarely saw people who looked like me pursuing careers that I was interested in. By pursuing a career in a STEM-related field I hope that I can show girls that look like me that it is more than ok to love science. I want girls to see me and for them to want to pursue the dreams that they feel are impossible. It also is crucial to implement more women in STEM-related careers. Women are often put down for their academic or career-related achievements. This is due to society’s natural inclination to put women below men, but women celebrating their achievements and pursuing these careers could advance to the next steps towards equality. By inspiring young girls to pursue these careers this would make equality in the workplace much more accessible.

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