February 8, 2013

Girl Power

This past weekend I took part in "Women of Science & Technology Day", a day-long workshop for Girl Scouts providing these young ladies with access to scientific professionals and hands-on learning. The professional women came from diverse scientific backgrounds - engineering, health care, chemistry, veterinary science, hydrology, geology and just like me, biology.  

I attended a luncheon, where I sat with a bunch of 5th grade girls.  They had the opportunity to ask me questions, about being a Girl Scout when I was younger, the courses I took in school and the animals I work with today. I looked around the room, a sea full of woman, of all ages - young girls, their parents and the women scientists they all came to see. The only man in the room stuck out like a sore thumb.  It was exciting, empowering, dignifying.  It was pure girl power.

During each presentation we gave, we were encouraged to relate ourselves to the girls that chose to attend our sessions.  To let them know that we were once just like them.  I started with a brief "Meet Marla", a how and why I am where I am today in a nutshell.  I showed pictures of me with a sea cucumber in the Bahamas, looking through a microscope at my makeshift Bahamian lab, holding a snake, standing in the Oil Sands with my hard hat and safety glasses, working with dolphins, and finally working with some of my newest furry and feathery friends.  I talked about my love for the water and animals and how I originally saw myself in the sunny south.  They all laughed, realizing I am now the furthest thing from it.  But, the point was to show the girls that it doesn't matter where you came from, or how you got there, whether the doors opened in front of you with ease, or whether you took a few detours along the way, as long as you're happy in the end, that's what matters.  And of course, I told them that while my journey has taken me on some unexpected routes, and included some trial and error, I currently can't see myself anywhere else. 

At the end of my last workshop, I had a young girl, probably around 11, come up to me and say, "You're the adult version of me."  Obviously, I had to laugh a little.  Me?  A science professional?  Me?  An adult? I felt excited, empowered, dignified. Knowing that someone looks up to me, someone aspires to be where I am, reassures me that I got it right, that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.

Where has your journey taken you? 
Are you where you thought you'd be, or have you taken some detours?


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