Young Math Prodigy Enrolled in University at the Age of 10, Crushing Stereotypes About Black People in STEM

As science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers continue to struggle to become more diverse, a young Black math prodigy is demolishing every stereotype that this industry has held against Black women specifically and black people in general.

Past diversity reports from today’s biggest tech giants say it all — Black people and women are grossly underrepresented in STEM fields.

It’s a pattern that is reflected all throughout the STEM industry.

This means Black women in such fields are nearly impossible to come by, but as one 10-year-old math prodigy is proving, it’s not because Black women aren’t capable of filling these positions.

Esther Okade of Walsall, England, would likely be shocked to hear of the deficit of Black women in STEM, if she hasn’t heard about the serious shortage already.

While the general consensus and illegitimate stereotypes have led people to believe that Black girls just aren’t into math, Esther spends much of her time ripping through equations and formulas that would leave her college classmates stumped.

Yes. Her college classmates.

Before she even reached her teenage years, Esther managed to successfully enroll in the U.K.’s Open University, a distance learning and research university, where she will be working toward a mathematics degree, the Telegraph reported.

“I just love math,” Esther told the Daily Mail about her recent accomplishment and obsession with numbers. “All the numbers and the solving, it’s like a mystery.”

Math isn’t the only interest Esther has. Outside of being able to crunch numbers like a seasoned accountant, she has the same interests that any other 10-year-old would have.

Esther told the Telegraph that she enjoys playing with dolls and is in love with the movie Frozen.

But in the midst of watching her favorite talking snowman and playing with friends, she’s preparing to become a successful banker.

She estimates that she’ll be able to earn her degree in roughly two years before going on to earn her Ph.D.

“And then from there I’ll start running my own business,” she added, according to the Daily Mail. “I want to be a banker.”

For those who are concerned that this could be an overwhelming experience for the young math genius, her mother wants the world to know that this was all her daughter’s decision.

“From the age of 7, Esther has wanted to go to university,” the math prodigy’s mother told the Telegraph. “But I was afraid it was too soon.”

Eventually, she just couldn’t say no anymore.

Esther begged her mother to allow her to go to the university and finally receive a challenge in the classroom when it came to math — even though those challenges still haven’t left Esther struggling by any means.

On a recent exam, Esther received a perfect score.

Industry experts are hoping that the young aspiring banker will be enough to encourage other young Black girls to ignore messages that the STEM field isn’t for them.

Boys are far more likely to be encouraged to pursue such careers, which plants the necessary seeds of interest at a young age. Young Black girls are typically left out of that conversation and rarely discover their interest in STEM until they are much older, if even then.

But as young Esther has demonstrated to the world, it’s about time that more young Black girls are encouraged to give STEM careers a try.

After all, leaving more great minds like Esther’s out of the mix and away from STEM jobs in the future would only be cheating the entire world out of the possible innovations that their work could bring to the industry.

African-American Women Paving The Way In Engineering Fields

Not only are African-Americans in engineering notably under-represented, but their graduation rates have in fact gone down in recent years. Rates for African-American women in engineering, though, present some intriguing questions. Could it be that, relative to other demographic groups of women, they are overachieving in engineering?

Looking at women by race and ethnicity, African-Americans are the most likely to get an engineering degree. And white women are the least likely. Earning 26.8% of all African-American engineering bachelor’s degrees in 2012, African-American women exceed the rate of women in all other demographics in their share of degrees, as broken out by sex.

    1. African-American, 26.8%
    2. Asian or Pacific Islander, 23.0%
    3. Hispanic, 22.5%
    4. American Indian, 22.3%
    5. White, 17.4%

Degree Ratios, Women:Men

Percentages, of course, can indicate many things. For example, these graduation rates also point up how many more African-American women than men attend college. Indeed, another list that African-American women top is the ratio of women getting undergraduate degrees to men getting them.

  1. African-American, 1.92:1 (113,601/59,267)
  2. American Indian, 1.57:1 (6,561/4,182)
  3. Hispanic, 1.56:1 (107,568/69,131)
  4. White, 1.28:1 (635,766/496,923)
  5. Asian or Pacific Islander, 1.19:1 (64,348/53,913)

In other words, African-American women earn about two of every three African-American undergraduate degrees, about 65%. White women earn about 11 of every 20 white degrees, or 56%. Because there are so many more of them to start with, relative to men, African-American women would be expected to get a higher portion of all degrees within their cohort than women in demographics more evenly divided by sex.

How Things Might Look with Full Representation

The question, then, is, how much higher a portion would they be expected to get? (Note: Please excuse the math to follow, but, hey, this is engineering we’re talking about—math is part of the deal.) Using the first set of percentages in combination with the ratios of women to men can help us understand what African-American and white women’s engineering degree rates would be if they earned degrees in engineering at the same rate as they do overall.

Suppose “full” representation in engineering meant African-American women earned 65% of engineering degrees, just as they do overall. Their real 26.8% share, then, is 41% of their theoretical, “full” share (26.8/65).
For white women, 56% of engineering degrees would be “full” representation. Their real 17.4% share is 31% of their “full” share (17.4/56).

To be sure, none of this is cause for celebration. Women remain, on all fronts, significantly under-represented in engineering. But seen from this angle, at least, African-American women seem to be completing engineering degrees at a higher rate than white women. (As it happens, only Asian or Pacific Islander women exceed African-American women’s 41%, with 23.0% registering as 42.6% of their full representation rate of 54% of all degrees.)

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