Youth for Positive Change talked to Snehaa Ganesh about her organization, the Queen Bee Project, which aims to reduce competition anxiety among young women in competitive fields.
First off, can you tell us if there was a particular person or organization that inspired you to start The Queen Bee Project (@thequeenbeeproject)?
Monica Merrill, my PowerSchool internship advisor, and Marcy Daniels, the CPO of PowerSchool (who also happened to be the only woman on the executive team) were really an inspiration and provided a lot of support especially in the beginning.
I’ve always loved the field of astrophysics – it’s something I always wanted to get in to. But I had this subconscious fear, because it is so male-dominated. My junior year, a pivotal time for deciding my college major, was really tough because I knew what I wanted to do. But I also didn’t want to pick a field where I would end up feeling left out/like I didn’t belong there for the rest of my career.
The summer before senior year, when I interned at PowerSchool, Marcy Daniels & Monica Merrill pulled aside all the girls in our internship group, and told us that being successful was going to be hard. But they had done it when there were even fewer women in technology. And if they had, we could.
I felt immensely better knowing that others had gone through this same experience when there were even fewer women in STEM, and women weren’t treated as equally as they are today. This inspired me to start the Queen aspect of the QBP, and the bee aspect followed after discussions with my fellow competitors!
Aside from leading QBP, you are also a seasoned spell(er) bee! Did your experience as a participant in spelling bees impact your decision to create the Queen Bee Project?
Absolutely; I’d say that’s the main thing that inspired me to create the Bee side of the QBP!! Some of my closest friends are spellers, and we always talk about how we wished competitions worked differently, about the downsides of pouring time and energy into academic competitions. I felt so strongly about this that I decided to take concrete steps to make these competitions as enjoyable as possible, so that no other competitor would feel that way!
What was your first experience of activism/advocacy and how has it shaped your current work?
My freshman year, I interned for Ami Bera’s 2016 re-election campaign. Most of my work was phone banking, which was quite horrifying for me (being an introverted person). But the experience really helped to bring me out of my shell. It helped me become a lot more comfortable talking to strangers, especially about something I believed so strongly in, and it taught me that introverts could be as effective as leaders (maybe even more effective) than extroverts!
How do you personally deal with competition anxiety and what are three pieces of advice you would give to young women and girls interested in getting involved in competitive fields of study?
Before I step on a stage for any competition, I remind myself of the worst possible outcome. I mess up on the first round, or miss my first question. Even if this happens, I’ll still have met everyone there, made connections, and gained a new experience. Looking at it this way helps me to stay calm and focus.
To young women interested in competitive fields: know that women have done exactly what you are about to do, and they did it when it was much harder for a woman to be taken seriously. Now, you have a world full of resources and inspiring mentors at your fingertips: use them, be brave, take care of yourself, and conquer the world!
If you had the ability to give one piece of advice to our generation what would it be?
This is to me too: get off your phones. Face-to-face conversations are better than texting. Networking is better in person. Go take that trip, instead of watching vlogs about it. The more time we spend outside of a virtual headspace, the more we get in tune with ourselves, and the more we can contribute to whatever sphere of society we spend our time in.
Finally, what are three self-care tips you’d give to teens struggling with anxiety and stress?
First, don’t expect to feel in tune with yourself, happy, and peaceful in a week. Set a realistic timeline, so you’re not disappointed when you haven’t reached nirvana after a couple weeks of meditation. Working on yourself is a slow, painstaking process; but while you’re at it, look back to how your mental health was a month ago. Just seeing how far you’ve come is something to take happiness out of.
Second, go somewhere alone. There’s a lot of pressure to always be socializing, hanging out with friends, networking, or spending time with family. But the more time you spend, uninterrupted, in your own head, the faster you’ll understand what makes you happy.
And finally, understand that you deserve to be happy. There’s a lot of masked hate and jealousy out there, but you deserve the world. You deserve to set your OWN goals, and not let domesticity or hustle culture define them. You deserve to decide what is “socially acceptable.” You deserve to take time to find your truth, and to do whatever makes you happy.
BIOGRAPHY: Snehaa Ganesh is a senior in high school from Sacramento, CA. She’s the runner-up of the 2016 Scripps National Spelling Bee, Champion of the Literature category in the National Academic Pentathlon, and has competed in the National Brain Bee and the National Astrophysics Olympiad. She’s also an advocate for increasing female participation in traditionally male-dominated career fields! She’s been hosting spelling workshops for over a year around Sacramento, but was looking for a way to combine both of her passions when she founded the Queen Bee Project!