Sometimes, the most challenging situations can yield the most empowering success stories. For Dr. Anna Powers, founder of the organization Powers Education, creating a sense of community, reframing the image of STEM, and building the next generation of female leaders is a challenge worth taking.
“Science is innovation, and innovation has always moved our world forward. By including more women in these fields, we’re not only helping women actively participate in the progress of our society, but we’re bringing more brain power into solving complex problems – and both of these are of course something the world needs!”
Growing up, Powers was the kind of girl who preferred playing chess and analyzing numbers to playing house, but she never considered pursuing a PhD in a STEM field.
It wasn’t until Powers met an inspiring professor in college who encouraged her to choose a STEM field for a career, that she realized she had been unintentionally limiting her potential. Now, as an award winning researcher, lecturer, scholar, and entrepreneur, Powers has realized that her story is not an isolated incident. Countless young women with the aptitude and curiosity necessary to excel in subjects like engineering and technology fail to pursue these careers because they do not think of these fields as a welcoming place for women.
“I remember being the only female in [my] physics class out of 28 people. It is just human nature that it could feel alienating, and you ask the question: What am I doing? I am good at this, but is this really for me? ” Powers says. “Science subjects in general have an intimidating image around them, but they are beautiful and inherently creative. So I’d like to change the image of science, and have women view this field as a place where they can feel confident, comfortable, and successful.”
In 2016, Powers established her organization, Powers Education. Through this institution, Powers provides young women with tutors and role models that help them explore subjects like technology and math as well as unlock the potential they have not yet realized. Not only does she provide young women with a nurturing environment in which to learn, but she actively works to change the conversation surrounding what a people picture when they hear the word “scientist” or “engineer”.
Powers has found that one of the most important things she must do is spread the word about issues like the gender pay-gap, confidence-gap, and gendering in the workforce. Powers and her team recently began a new social campaign, emPower, which captures the stories of young women in STEM, their struggles, and how communities like Powers Education can help them find belonging. The young women Powers has worked with have encountered struggles, but they continue to explore the subjects that have captured their hearts and minds.
On a day-to-day basis, Powers works directly on the front lines: teaching classes, mentoring young women, and ensuring that every person she works with feels that they can tackle any barrier they might encounter.
One student, for example, came to Powers with a “D” in a science course. The student had struggled to understand the subject and had almost resigned herself to failure as she felt she was more naturally gifted with language arts, a major typically dominated by women. Powers took her into office hours sessions and explained that science too, is a language, and that her brain was perfectly capable of learning it. By the end of the semester, the student passed the course with an “A”, and saw science in an entirely different light. For her, and many students, she simply needed a mentor to show her that her difficulty with science is not unsurmountable; she only needed to find inspiration in the pursuit of new knowledge.
In the future, Powers wants Powers Education to go global. She still has work to do in the United States, and tons of girls can benefit from building a relationship with one of her tutors to receive a deeper education. However, some countries have even wider gaps to fill. In fact, in certain countries, girls are discouraged from going to school in general, let alone exploring STEM.
“I want Powers Education to be the go-to resource and support for all educational and career related materials for women in STEM,” Powers says. “The same love and fascination that I have for science is what I aim to bring to other women through Powers Education.”
With joy, Dr. Powers says, “I want others to see science through my eyes: a world of opportunity and a beautiful place!”
Want to learn more about Powers Education and ways you can participate?
Thank you to Dr. Anna Powers for allowing me to publish this piece.