Jinisha Patel, a junior at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has already begun to transform the STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) world for women by becoming a vocal champion for them on the NJIT campus.

She has even been invited to the White House — twice — to participate in events focused on the issues facing women in STEM. As a sophomore, she attended a Tech Inclusion Summit, and earlier this year, she addressed the United Nations (after a UN rep heard her speak on the subject during a panel discussion).

Patel was born in a small town in India, where technology is significantly less ubiquitous than in the United States. She first encountered a computer at age 7 and was instantly fascinated. Her mother, recognizing her daughter’s interest in tech, bought her a computer of her own. Little did anyone know that Patel’s childhood curiosity would lead her to take the first steps along a future career path in advocacy for women in STEM.

But Patel’s way has not been entirely smooth. She recalls numerous occasions when male colleagues called her computer-science skills and passion into question — even though she was often the one who tutored the men in her class. During her speech to the UN, Patel said that “confidence and self-esteem are powers that can bring our untapped potential.” Empowering women in STEM is necessary, she argued, as they are the people who will help drive progress and innovation for all mankind.

We agree — and we look forward to seeing what Patel’s future holds!