This post is dedicated to Carrie Elzie, a mentor who showed me that no matter my age or credentials, my voice matters.
Working in academia taught me many lessons, but one of the most valuable ones was that my voice was important. I started my academic career directly after graduating with my masters in anatomy in 2019. Being the youngest faculty member of the department and having students that were the same age as me or older was definitely intimidating at times. I knew I would need to be confident to show that I belonged as a faculty member.
I remember the first time I approached my supervisor with what I thought was a crazy research idea. I nervously walked to her office and proposed my idea, thinking she would say it was too far fetched, a bad idea, or believe I was too young and ignorant. She looked at me directly and said “Let’s do it.” With every crazy idea I brought her, she always showed me that enthusiasm - typically with some feedback on how to improve the project. She valued my thoughts and opinions from my first day in the office. It didn’t matter that I did not have a PhD or that I was only 24, my thoughts and ideas were valuable to her. Together, we became collaborators where we supported each other and saw our research ideas come to life.
What she taught me directly translated into meetings with people in my department and university. I got used to being the youngest and least experienced person in the room, but I never allowed this to stop me from stating my opinion. I knew my thoughts had value and I would not be silent.
There are times where doubt still creeps in. When that happens, I think of a quote from Michelle Obama, “I decided that I wasn’t bossy, I was confident and strong. I wasn’t loud, I was a young woman with something important to say..”
Unfortunately, we don’t always have mentors who validate our voices and ideas. So let me try to validate yours. Don’t be afraid to speak up when you are the youngest, least experienced, or only woman in the room. We need your voices and ideas. They are valuable and in all likelihood, unless you speak up, no one will think of your idea. Be bold and confident! You have something important to say.