“Farah, I don’t know if it would be a good idea to go into engineering, this is a male-dominated field. I don’t know if you will succeed or not, it will be difficult. She was 16 or 17 when she was called by a professor tasked with guiding her for her career This note.Fifteen years later, Farah Ali Bey has become an aeronautical engineer at NASA.Thursday evening, she participated in the opening of the G-CHANGE conference* to encourage young girls to study in science.
Q: Why participate in this conference?
A: I want to demystify my work, talk about my background, the obstacles I faced…I want to show young people that when we talk about a great career, it is not an impossible thing. I want to show them that you can be a girl like everyone else, and that you can go where you want to when you have a dream and a goal. When I started, I was told, “No, sexism in 2010 doesn’t exist anymore! We have to change our culture and the way we do things, not just by saying it’s going to be done.”
Q: How do we encourage young people to take an interest in science?
A: I remember asking my math teacher, “What is the use of trigonometry in my life?” » Tu imagines, entendre ça d’une ingénieure de la NASA… Ce qui est bien, c’est qu’on commence à amener de la robotique ou de la programmation, pour montrer aux jeunes que ce qu’ils apprennent s’applique aussi In life.
Q: How important is diversity in science?
A: Sometimes I find myself in a room for being the only woman or the only woman of color. It can be difficult to take your place at the table, to express yourself when you are different from the rest or when you do not see people like us in our chain of command. There were times when the team leader was gender-biased or treated me differently, or at least times when I felt different. What I saw as a weakness, I turned into a strength. Nobody is like me, so people remember me, especially in the arena of competition: “Ah yes, Farah, the red-haired girl!”
Q: What is the man’s place in this evolution of mentalities?
A: Early in my career it was hard to take my place, answer questions, present my work… It happened to me a few times when I was the one doing the research and the tests and asking a guy next to me about the results instead of asking me. I often encourage people to amplify the person’s voice, whatever it is. If someone does or has an idea, give them a place, rather than taking it from them. When we talk about diversity and inclusion, women don’t just have to make an effort to find a place: men also need to be allies, helping the women or minorities they work with.
Q: Do you also talk about the difficulties you may have experienced?
A: I think it’s been getting better over the past five years, and there’s been a lot of talk about the importance of diversity. It is important to have honest conversations, to talk about obstacles, but to humanize it, to show that the failures we experience or the doubts we feel are normal. you have to give [aux jeunes filles] Basically for them to remember this conversation when they go into engineering, or when they have these doubts.
Q: The last word?
A: Whatever you are, whatever you do, you can find yourself in any field: there is a place for you, wherever you want to go.
* The G-CHANGE initiative aims to encourage women’s participation in science, engineering, and mathematics. The initiative offers two days of conferences open every October 21 and 22 at École Normale Supérieure des Technologies in Montreal. She also offers a mentoring program with inspirational ambassadors for young girls aged 15-19. Farah Alipay will speak during a science communication workshop for 15 young girls at 4:30 pm, as well as at the opening of the conference held in mixed format (online and in person) at 5:30 pm.
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