The Write Stuff

When Layla Dawit ’22 and Georgetown Day School student Avani Ahuja qualified for the MATHCOUNTS National competition one year, their team stood out—Dawit and Ahuja were members of the first all-female team to represent DC at this level of the competition. They noticed that there were fewer and fewer female competitors as the competition moved into the higher levels, and that got them thinking—which turned into writing, which turned into publishing, which turned into their new magazine, Gxrls in STEM. The effort paid off: The magazine, which was started by “gxrls” (students who identify as female or nonbinary) from Sidwell Friends and Georgetown Day School and has since expanded to include gxrls from eight schools internationally, won a 2021 Crown Award from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association,  a student press association at Columbia University. The magazine won in the category of "High School Print General Magazine."  All selected publications will receive a final Gold or Silver Crown designation in March 2021. 

“Avani and I saw that more and more gxrls were feeling less confident and more intimidated by advanced classes in math and science,” Dawit says. “We wanted to build a community of gxrls that could support each other and explore their interest in STEM.”

One significant feature of Gxrls in STEM is that it doesn’t necessarily look or feel like what a STEM-focused magazine “should” be; there's a colorful, youthful life to it; STEM-related memes mix with scholarly articles on vaccines and interviews with women working in STEM.

“The articles are science-based, but a lot of times they end up connecting to other fields,” Dawit says. “STEM can connect to so many other fields—mental health, art, everything.”

Dawit and her co-founder always wanted Gxrls in STEM to inspire, and they found that the magazine did that before the first issue even went to press.

“I think there’s this feeling that if you’re going to write for a STEM magazine you have to be ridiculously smart, and if people feel they don’t measure up to that ideal, they can get discouraged,” Dawit says. “But Gxrls in STEM is a very supportive community, and we always lift each other up. It’s not like your first draft has to be perfect—it’s always a process, and it’s more about learning and sharing and collaborating. The magazine is, at its center, about community.”

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