Janel Hull: From Field Scientist to the Front Lines of Leadership for Girls in STEM
Portland Program Manager for ChickTech discusses what it's like to be a woman in a male-dominated field, and how we can all do our parts to inspire diversity and representation in STEM.
Field Work Beginnings
Janel Hull’s field work took her to some pretty amazing places in the name of scientific research. At one point she was helicoptered into the forests of Hawaii to study endangered birds. Another saw her studying Brook lamprey alongside Native American communities in Oregon. Above all, Janel found her passion in the intersection between humanity and science.
Though, she couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something was off. The turning point for Janel was realizing her all-male research team and supervisor weren’t exactly the picture of inclusion. This led her to the inevitable question that would change her professional life forever: “how can I get more women in my field?”
Here And Now
Though her field work days are behind her, Janel focuses that drive in a new project she couldn’t wait to tell us about. ChickTech started as a small organization in 2012 with the goal of inspiring girls and women to pursue careers in STEM fields, and now serves more than 7,000 young women and adults across the nation. Their influence has grown through K-12 programs,conferences, and partnerships. Janel’s message for those pursuing a career in STEM? “You are smart. You aren’t here by accident. You deserve this.”
On hearing the pushback for the name ChickTech and using pink as their organization’s color, Janel is more than proud for incorporating femininity and technology in to their nonprofit’s brand: “It’s ok to be both! Girls can like whatever they want, even if that means pink things and computers. There’s no reason they can’t coexist.” Reinventing the image of girls and women in the tech industry doesn’t mean sacrificing another.
Facing The Problem
The silent majority in STEM, who deem scientific ability irrespective of gender, often don’t speak out when women in the field are discriminated against. “We can’t do anything unless we do it together,” Janel explains. So, Janel strives at Chicktech to include men and people of all genders in the ChickTech movement. There’s real incentive to achieve diversity in STEM for all involved; not only economic, but ethically, personally, emotionally...women are valuable, deserve to be heard, and can contribute immense value to these fields.
That effort doesn’t go unnoticed, as ChickTech participant Ayantu Boriyo recounts her experiences in the program: “Before [ChickTech], I thought being an engineer was something I wasn’t capable of, but my experiences taught me that I am capable, and that your background, race, gender, none of that matters. I am determined to become an engineer.”
And at times inclusion in STEM certainly feels like an uphill battle. What challenges does Janel face? “Fundraising. Support. Resources. We are trying to change something that people don’t necessarily want to change. Tech companies are only now being held accountable for their lack of inclusivity.” The bright side? ChickTech is working. Funds are a small bump in the road for an otherwise incredibly successful and rewarding project for Janel and the ChickTech Nation. ChickTech now has 27 chapters throughout North America and is growing to become an international movement. Despite the challenges, Janel has a lot to be hopeful for.