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A female pilot went on a solo journey to promote the importance of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Twenty-nine-year-old Shaesta Waiz, an ex-refugee who grew up in California, embarked on a transatlantic flight in May. From Florida, USA, she stopped over several countries including Egypt, the UAE, and her home country Afghanistan.
The trip was supported by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Waiz and ICAO have been organizing events to show students the potential of a career in science, especially aeronautics.
Waiz said her initial plan was to get married early and have a family, as was expected from most women in her home country. However, her discovery of aviation changed her plans. She became the first in her family to earn a graduate degree and the first Afghan female to be a certified civilian pilot. Her solo flight around the world is another feather in her cap.
She hopes to help young girls and women realize that they can pursue STEM careers despite their background. This is why she started the non-profit organization Dreams Soar.
Women are generally underrepresented in STEM, but recently, more women like Waiz have been breaking through its glass ceiling. Aside from Dreams Soar, programs such as Women in STEM (WiSTEM) have been raising awareness on STEM as a career option for women. WiSTEM’s group also tackles other issues that professional women face.
Moreover, recent films such as Hidden Figures have portrayed the presence of women in male-dominated institutions like NASA. Hidden Figures is a story about NASA’s black female mathematicians. NASA engineer Shelia Nash-Stevenson said the film is an initiative to help young girls see their potential in STEM.