It seems like our parents, our teachers and other adults expect us to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives. But how is a high school student supposed to know?
When I first heard about a Women in Bioscience conference in Columbus, I thought that a majority of it would be focused on the different careers in bioscience, a career field I could never see myself in—despite the fact that I am a female high school senior attending Bio-Med Science Academy at Northeast Ohio Medical University. I was gladly surprised to learn that the conference wasn’t just about bioscience, but about how to build a career and all of the factors that play into the building of a career.
My favorite panel was the very first panel, Talent and Mentoring. The panel of women discussed their career stories and talked about the people who really impacted them. Each panelist was filled with words of wisdom for young girls looking to have careers they wanted. Panel speaker Deanne Nowak, Ph.D., dean of institutional and curriculum research at Gilmour Academy, told us, “It’s okay to not know what you want to do, but you can’t be paralyzed.” As a young woman applying to college who is exploring her career options, I found this message to be greatly important. Other panelists, Annie Kerr (a communications specialist at MentorcliQ, a company that facilitates mentoring) and Marla Phillips, Ph.D., director of Xavier Health at Xavier University, reminded the women in the room to “Do your best and be proud of it” and that “There’s time, you don’t have to rush.”
The idea that I don’t have to know what I want to do and that I don’t have to rush really resonated with me. I certainly don’t know what I want to do, and the pressure I feel from the adults in my life to choose one career right now is so frightening. It’s refreshing to hear that I don’t have to be certain of what I want to do, but I have to build experiences that at least give me an inkling of what direction I want to head in.
The encouragement of exploring career options is especially important to young women. Not that long ago women couldn’t even work in any science field. Bioscience and other scientific fields are relatively new career fields for women to work in. I think this frightens some young women because they don’t want to be the only female working in a male-dominated field. It’s scary being the only girl. I would know, because I’ve been in situations where I was the only female in a male-dominated group. But you can’t let the gender of your peers hold you back. The acknowledgment of the inequality of men and women at the conference truly made it a memorable experience.
There was only one thing about the conference that I didn’t enjoy. I wish that there hadn’t been so much sitting. With all of the exciting energy in the room, it would have been great to move around to exercise that energy. It’s not necessarily a bad thing that we didn’t have a chance to interact with others more, it’s just something that would have been nice. I might just be being nitpicky, but by not moving around I felt very confined, which counteracted my excitement about being bold and open in my career choices.
I encourage every woman who is interested to look into attending the next BioOhio Women in Bioscience conference. I wish I could, too, but I’ll be off at college building the foundation for my career.
Gillian Seibel is a high school senior at the Bio-Med Science Academy on the Northeast Ohio Medical University campus, where she is also an intern in the Office of Marketing and Communications.