Meet Aleena: From Qubit by Qubit student to founder of her high school’s Gender Equality club

Aleena, a New Jersey high school student, signed up to take Qubit by Qubit’s Introduction to Quantum Computing course in October 2020 as a sophomore in high school. She was excited to learn more about quantum computing, but she soon discovered something else through Qubit by Qubit. Most of the organization’s leaders were women. Feeling inspired, this school year, Aleena joined forces with two of her friends who are also interested in STEM to form the Gender Equality Movement club at her high school.

Aleena recently invited Qubit by Qubit’s Program Director, Rachel, to speak with the club about what it’s like as a woman in a male dominated field. After the talk, Rachel sat down with Aleena to learn a little bit more about Aleena’s experiences as a young woman in STEM and her interest in quantum. Their interview is below.

Interview between Aleena and Rachel:

Rachel: What led you to founding this organization at your high school?

Aleena: I was inspired to start this club because of Qubit by Qubit. Nearly your entire founding team is women. I thought that was so interesting. Quantum computing — and honestly all of STEM — is mostly men. But at Qubit by Qubit, there were so many strong and inspiring women leaders.

I was really inspired by my Teaching Assistant, Aziza. I was inspired by her story. She was so smart and she knew exactly what she was talking about. I’ve never met someone like that who was so empowered. I thought that it was so cool to be learning from another female about something that I am so interested in. I literally remember thinking, “wow, she’s so empowered, she’s so smart.”

R: Tell me more about the organization you’ve founded at your high school?

A: The name of the club is Gender Equality Movement. Like I said, one of the reasons I started it was because of Qubit by Qubit. Another related reason is that I’m in a lot of computer science-based courses. All of the time, I’m always outnumbered by the males in the class. I remember being in like sixth grade and going to this computer science competition, and already, me and this one girl were the only ones on a team of seven people. It was so frustrating because I’ve always thought girls are capable of doing so much more. It’s super frustrating.

I started the club with two of my friends who were having the same experiences. I brought this up to them and they were like “wow, we’ve been going through the same thing.” My other friend is interested in medicine.

The mission of the club is to talk to women with other similar experiences, share what we’ve been through and how to get through it, and tips on how to overcome barriers and challenges.

R: What do you love about quantum?

A: I LOVED the Qubit by Qubit course, I loved every single second of it. Since then, I’ve joined a quantum computing group in New Jersey where I attend lectures. So I’ve learned a lot more since Qubit by Qubit, but Qubit by Qubit really set the stage for me. I’m especially interested in the applications of quantum computing in the medical field.

R: What recommendations do you have for leaders and decision-makers for how they can make your path easier and more supportive as a young woman interested in STEM?

A: I would definitely tell everyone to be a little bit more mindful and allow everyone to engage in the conversation. Give everyone an opportunity to speak and give everyone an opportunity to share their ideas. If I could snap my fingers and make something happen, I would implant that in every single brain: let every single person have an opportunity to share their ideas. Leadership is not about dominating the conversation or dominating a project. It’s about letting everyone share their ideas and then creating a plan. It’s about collaboration.

R: What closing thoughts do you have?

A: I just want to say thank you to Qubit by Qubit. Your organization gave me so much perspective. Not just about quantum — well, you gave me a lot of knowledge about quantum — but also gender equity, feeling empowered, and how it’s so important to make sure everyone is included in the future of quantum.

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