Lloyda Fairweather from Belize studying at Murray State University is one of 12 finalists for the International Student Voice Magazine scholarship. Read her essay here!
After spending 21 years I finally packed up my bags and got ready for the big move… AMERICA. It was apparent that as a female studying information technology, I wouldn’t make a stand or be taken seriously unless I took that flight across a few thousand miles to the land that creates opportunity. I decided that nothing was going to stand in my way.
I graduated from my local university with a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology but searched near and far within my country to find a job, and at the end of the day, no matter how well my transcript looked, jobs were still not available. I spent an entire year teaching and searching for jobs wondering why I kept being passed up for so many jobs. I remember my superiors being impressed, but none took the chance of hiring me. I decided not to settle for less than my best and kept trying to push myself to achieve my goal, so I got on that flight, said goodbye to family and friends and figured I would begin the fight.
Many times while studying back home, I heard so many times, “Girl, you’re never gonna make it!” and I was destined to turn that around. When it came to certain tasks, us females were too “girly” or it’s a “guy’s job”, so I was never expected to achieve it. So when it came to the job area, hearing a few “No’s” was not stopping me from the dream. I figured in order to get my respect in this field, I had to prove I had to earn my stripes, like the big boys did. Unfortunately, the longer I stayed back in Belize, the more I began to feel like it was true, and I NEVER wanted another young girl to feel that way.
Many places today, females in technology are still quite an unusual thing. It takes guts and a strong backbone to keep standing. It is often heard that technology has been successful without the help of women, why are we needed? The truth is why aren’t we? In fact, many times in my home country, women are trained to be a wife and a mother, but not much more. This came from a slave mentality from centuries ago. Men were afforded the privilege to go to school and the women would stay and make the home. While this was good, I believe strongly in equality. Women have managed to trickle into the workforce, but in some areas, we still are still insignificant.
I personally felt that I knew the hard work I put in was just the same as every male personnel, so I should be afforded the opportunity, just as they were and so I set out to plough the fields and make the way for all the girls that follow behind me. What better place to do that than in the Great America? Funny, but little did I know that coming to America would still be hard!
I was still in a classroom of 80:20 in favour of men! Something didn’t quite seem right. Lucky for me, my university offered a group called “Women in Computing” where I felt like I was able to get up and shine. Since I have been in the U.S., I have seen many more women than I have ever thought possible involved and engaged in every field. Being in the U.S. has given me strength and introduced me to even more approaches, but more importantly, it has encouraged me to continue in what I have set out to do. I have attended conferences in the region where girls of all ages were introduced to and able to network with high profiled women in this field that are making a way for their successors. That gives me the strength because I want to be for girls back home, what they are for me: a way to show that we are here! It opened my eyes to more ways to get girls involved from an early age and open their eyes. I want everyone to know that they are able to do anything! Anything! And it is up to them! It’s possible!
When I go back home I hope to open up avenues for girls to become more active in the technology field. I want them to have a safe haven equipped with the ability to stand up and do well, just like a guy would. I have learnt so much from being in the United States, and I feel like it will do me well to take back home and share. And, yes! I still plan to teach and have a job, but I want to continue to provide knowledge to everyone back in Belize. More importantly I would like for girls to know that no field is too small, too obsolete or unavailable to them!