George Mason University
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George Mason University

The Power of One: Empowering young women in STEM

July 23, 2019   /   by Ryley McGinnis

Dolica Gopisetty presents her keynote speech on empowering young women and her experience with cloud computing at Amazon Web Services’ IMAGINE: A Better World, A Global Education conference. Courtesy Photo.

Dolica Gopisetty poses with Andrew Ko, managing director for global education at Amazon Web Services, at AWS conference in Seattle. Courtesy Photo.

Sometimes it takes just one—one person to push you out of your comfort zone, to challenge you and help you do something you thought you’d never do, to push you into a new groundbreaking field.

Dolica Gopisetty, BS IST ’20, has a dream of becoming that one person to young women and girls who want to break into STEM.

Gopisetty was the only college-aged speaker at the Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) “IMAGINE: A Better World, A Global Education” conference this month. She traveled to Seattle, Washington to share the stage with Andrew Ko, managing director for global education at AWS, Betsy Corcoran, EdSurge CEO, and five other industry leaders. She spoke about her experience as a woman and minority in STEM, her desire to bring other women into the tech industry, and how that connects to the field of cloud computing.

“In my IT classes there are mostly boys,” says Gopisetty, “I’m one of probably two or three girls in classes of 40, and at first I felt very awkward raising my hand to answer or ask questions.”

Gopisetty, however, didn’t let that feeling keep her out of the spotlight for long. She says that later she realized that this feeling of awkwardness or inequality was all a part of her mindset, and by changing her mindset she could change the outcome. After that, there were no limits to her success, including earning her AWS certification in cloud computing.

“Later I asked myself, what is it intellectually that they (boys) have that I don’t?” she says. “We are equal intellectually, so there’s nothing stopping me from talking before a boy.”

Gopisetty has been taking her can-do mindset to local schools in her parents’ town of Richmond, Virginia, and mentoring young girls in middle and elementary schools. She points to her early exposure to technology as a motivating factor in choosing the information and technology (IT) major at Mason, and she hopes that doing the same for young girls will also drive them into the tech field.

“My father introduced me to technology when I was 8 or 9 years old, and I understood even at that age that the world was about technology,” she says. “I realized there was a lot of potential in the technology field.”

Her father was only one of the people who motivated her to enroll at Mason Engineering, earn her cloud computing certification, tell the world about the struggles, and champion the potential of women in STEM. Gopisetty says she also looks to professors at Mason for motivation and guidance.

Associate professor Kamaljeet Sanghera, assistant professor Irina Hashmi, and assistant professor Thomas Winston are the three professors that Gopisetty says have motivated her to keep learning and growing with the technology industry. “When I needed to talk, to share my success, or even my failures, I felt I could turn to them,” she says.

She has also received encouragement and support from people who saw and heard about her speech at the AWS conference. “I’ve had a lot of people thank me for representing their voices, the voices of women, and it’s been amazing to get so many messages and emails.”

Although Gopisetty has had support and guidance from many, she knows that it can take simply one spark of interest to encourage young women and girls to explore careers in IT.

“It really only takes one person, and I hope to be that one,” says Gopisetty. “My only career goal, besides working in cloud computing, is to empower girls and women to pursue their career in tech. We have to make sure women are feeling empowered and inspired to come.”

Gopisetty says that once women enter the field of tech there is no limit to what they can accomplish.  “There’s no doubt in my mind that very soon there will be an amazing tech product made by women, no doubt at all.”