Beyond Curie x Outside Magazine Collaboration
We stand on the shoulders of the countless women that stood before us. These women have paved the way for future generations, giving women of today opportunities to make their mark in the world. While significant strides have been made to diverse STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, women of color still remain vastly underrepresented in STEM. According to the Education of Digest Statistics, 2017–2018, women of color earned a small percentage (14.1%) of bachelor's degrees across all STEM fields (Asian women: 5.3%, Black women: 2.9%, Latinas: 4.3%, and Native women: 0.1%). Despite the many challenges and obstacles women of color still face in their professions and workplaces, their strength and tenacity persevere. This article seeks to celebrate the accomplishments and triumphs of young, successful women of color leaders in STEM who have raised the bar and are reinventing the standard for all women in STEM fields.
Minority Women in STEM, You can do it…. It’s understanding the universe & it’s being connected to the universe & making the world a better place. – Candy Torres
Jedidah C. Isler
Dr. Isler was the first American woman to earn a Ph.D. in astrophysics from Yale. She is also an award-winning researcher and TED fellow speaker who advocates for women of color in science. She completed a study about blazars, a particle from a hyperactive black hole that consumes light thousands of times faster than a black hole and can jet out these blazer particles at 99.99% of light's speed (Olivia Colombo, 2018). Currently, she is doing a study on the origin of energy from these hyperactive black holes. She also teaches and speaks on the importance of inclusiveness in STEM. Her work in astrophysics earned her an invitation to the White House (Olivia Colombo, 2018).
Farida Bedwei may have cerebral palsy, but she did not allow her condition to shape her life. She is a successful entrepreneur and software engineer. She is a role model that has rekindled the hopes of many families and people living with cerebral palsy through her powerful fictional protagonists, Zaara and Karmzah. She uses her story and experiences to reshape the widely misunderstood disability and taboos in various parts of Ghana and Africa. Her tenacity, resilience, and hard work enabled her to complete a diploma in information systems. Securing a dream job as a junior programmer in a leading software development company and co-founding a fintech company, Logiciel, that promotes financial inclusion by building micro-banking systems for financial institutions. (Farida Bedwei | Her Abilities Award, n.d.).
Lisa Ng is an award-winning Singaporean viral immunologist. In 2008, she became the first woman in Singapore to win the ASEAN Young Scientist and Technology Award for her studies in developing diagnostic kits for Avian Influenza and Sars-CoV and Avian Influenza. Her current research includes Sars-CoV-19 and endemic tropical diseases (Poh Ng, 2003). She is also part of the 'Beyond Curie" projects as a pioneer in Viral Immunology and Singapore Women's Hall of Fame, and the senior principal investigator at the Singapore Immunology Network (SigN), a project that undertakes research on viral infections such as Zika virus, dengue, and flavi-viruses. Some of her awards include the Most Inspiring Woman of Our Time Award for science and technology, and the Biovisions Next Fellow Award (Poh Ng, 2003).
Dr. Dijanna Figueroa, PhD
Dr. Figueroa is a marine scientist and STEAM education specialist, and director of education. She holds a bachelor of science in marine biology from the University of California of Los Angeles and a Ph.D. in marine science from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has more than ten years of experience teaching engineering, science, and STEM in grades K-8 schools. Most of her work as a deep-sea marine scientist and educator have been featured in publications, nature programs, and various science documentaries. She has worked as a research scientist at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California (Dr. Dijanna Figueroa, 2020). She also worked as a marine scientist and science educator at Cameron's production company. Dijanna has made the ocean accessible to everyone through her career of exploring the mysteries of the deep. She currently teaches middle-school science at St. Matthew's Parish School, and runs enrichment programs that teach students how to scuba dive, fly a drone, and build underwater robots. (Dr. Dijanna Figueroa, 2020)
Dr. Mirzakhani was an Iranian mathematician. She was the first woman and first Iranian to be awarded a Fields Medal from the International Mathematical Union. Today, she remains as the only woman thus far to receive that prize. Additionally, she received an award for her outstanding contribution in geometry and the dynamics of Riemann surfaces, and their moduli spaces. At the age of 31, she was a full rank professor at Stanford University’s mathematics department and remained there for the rest of her career. She pursued a study in geodesics, the most direct paths in hyperbolic geometries. In a series of her key papers, she developed theorems to characterize geodesics that would promote airplane circumnavigating around the Earth. Her contributions and awards were an incredible breakthrough for the quest for equality in STEM disciplines. (Bang, n.d.) On 14 July 2017, Dr. Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40. Nevertheless, she remains, posthumously, one of the most remarkable mathematicians of our time.
Kalpana Chawla was an Indian-American astronaut, engineer, and the first woman of Indian descent to go to space. She first flew in 1997, as a mission specialist and primary robotic arm operator on Space Shuttle Columbia. She was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of honor in 2003, after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the spacecraft disintegrated during its re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, killing Chawla and her six other crew members. She is considered to be a national hero in both India and the United States. Chawla earned an Aeronautic engineering degree from Punjab Engineering College and Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas in 1984. An avid learner, she obtained a second master's degree in 1986, and a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering in 1988 from the University of Colorado.
I feel a sense of urgency to create change.....We need the best and brightest minds and the most passionate and committed hearts to pursue STEM careers and take on the significant challenges that face human society and our world. – Karen Rodriguez
These women faced many challenges and hardships in their stellar careers, but their passion for STEM and determination caused them to persevere and become successful. Today we celebrate their successes, while recognizing that decreasing the gender and racial gaps is still paramount for promoting a truly equitable environment for future generations of all women in STEM. Furthermore, the accomplishments of women of color leaders in STEM deserve the highest praise. Their successes and triumphs have raised the bar, allowing the next generation of women leaders to exist in a world of endless possibilities within STEM fields.
Olivia Colombo. (2018, March 8). 5 Powerful Women in STEM You Need to Know. Jane Goodall’s Good for All News. https://news.janegoodall.org/2018/03/08/5-powerful-women-stem-need-know/
Women of Color in STEM: The Past, Present, and Future. (2020, January 9). Maryville Online. https://online.maryville.edu/blog/women-of-color-in-stem/
Dr. Dijanna Figueroa. (2020). www.stmatthewsschool.com.
Poh Ng, L. F. (2003). The Virus That Changed My World. PLoS Biology, 1(3), e66. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.0000066Bang, S. W. A. (n.d.). Maryam Mirzakhani, A Candle Illuminating the Dark. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/startswithabang/2017/08/01/maryam-mirzakhani-a-candle-illuminating-the-dark/?sh=52dfae6336c1
S.S. Kalpana Chawla NG-14 Cargo Delivery Mission to the International Space Station https://www.northropgrumman.com/wp-content/uploads/Kalpana_Chawla_Biography.pdf
Photo: STEM Role Models poster - Medium
Throughout history, there have been women trailblazers who have contributed to and sustained different fields of study, yet have gone without recognition. Thanks to the 2016 American biographical drama Hidden Figures, we have a name for these little-known women pioneers, especially the women of color. Many important women of color who made groundbreaking discoveries in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) have largely been ignored in history. These women were experts in their fields and significantly contributed to the success of their societies, organizations, and institutions. They were brilliant and innovative women who defied social constraints and accomplished great things.
Recently, these hidden figures have been revealed and rediscovered, with women of color now being acknowledged for their historical contributions to STEM. Additionally, organizations and universities are now encouraging women of color to pursue STEM careers and degrees, in order to continue to address the gender and racial gap in STEM. There are also a myriad of STEM conferences and events to help these women navigate their STEM careers and build their professional network. Even with these advances, there is plenty of work needed to ensure that there is more space created for women of color in STEM to thrive. However, there are still many women of color who have cultivated spaces for women in STEM, against all odds. We must remember to celebrate them as well.
"I think there is a role for us as women to contribute to the future of technology." Juliana Rotich
Ancient Women of Color in STEM
It is impossible to properly acknowledge all the women of color who have contributed to STEM throughout history, due to the many that have been pushed out historical records. Still, ancient evidence and reports exist that reveal how pivotal many women of color have been in developing technology, medical knowledge, scientific instruments, and engineering skills. For as long as science has existed, women have contributed to innovations and discoveries in those areas throughout history.
Women of color in STEM have contributed to science and medicine from ancient history to the modern-day. As far back as 2300 BCE, a priestess of Ur named En’Hedu’anna studied astronomy and tracked the cycles of the moon. She, like many of the scientists of her time, recorded her findings as poetry. Another ancient woman of color in STEM is Merit Ptah from the third century BCE. She was a physician in ancient Egypt and was the first recorded woman in medicine. These women defied social and cultural repression to make timeless discoveries that advanced the fields of astronomy and astrophysics.
"Through our evolution, we're so specialized for social interaction. So, if you can really design robots that can interact with people, in this very natural, interpersonal way, I think that would be great. You wouldn't have to have people read manuals, in order to operate them." Cynthia Breazeal
Historical Women of Color in STEM in Modern Times
Women of color in STEM have overcome racial and gender biases throughout time to make a name for themselves and contribute to great causes. These women overcame both sexism and racism to hold important titles and positions, contribute to significant discoveries, and push the boundaries of who is included in the history of STEM. There is a long extensive history of women of color innovators, creators, and leaders amongst the many great minds in STEM.
The following are short highlights of incredible women of color pioneers in STEM:
These pioneering women defied societal expectations and staggering obstacles to devote their lives to making the world a better place through their STEM careers.
While women of color in STEM have always faced difficulties throughout the ages, they persisted to overcome inherent biases based on sexism and racism. Their successes are a testament to the invaluable potential of all women of color who enter fields in STEM. Their stories deserve to be known and their determination must be modeled after by any woman of color in STEM. Therefore, it is imperative that we keep on researching and uncovering the countless other women of color in STEM, our hidden figures, who have contributed to this field throughout history; so that they too can be celebrated, and moved from the shadows of history.
Inanna, lady of largest heart, Betty De Shong Meador, University of Texas Press, Austin, 2000. Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Volume 75, Issue 1, January 2020, Pages 83–106
ForUsGirls & SAP Young Thinkers spark innovative creativity for our next generation of female leaders
In light of the International Women and Girls in Science Day on February 11, I would love to share the story on how the ForUsGirls foundation and SAP Young Thinkers collaborate to support our next generation of women! While A NEW REALITY: Tech Summit for Girls usually has been an energetic in-person event, the organizations came together to support young girls virtually.
The ForUsGirls Foundation is an international not-for-profit organization providing innovative, skills & leadership development programs & opportunities for underserved & underrepresented young womxn & girls aged 10-25. 2018, its Founder & President Aminka Belvitt created A New Reality: Tech Summit for Girls hosted by SAP Next-Gen during the last two years, in New York City at 10 Hudson Yards. Of course, 2020 was different and the concept to inspire young girls for tech had to be reimagined.
A NEW REALITY: Tech Summit for Girls is a social-tech innovation initiative to Spark Innovative Creativity in the minds of young women and girls from underrepresented communities, in New York City & area to consider careers in Tech & Entrepreneurship while prototyping design solutions for the UN 17 Global Goals.
The SAP Young Thinkers team was happy to support this aim. Two virtual workshop series were designed for the girls to learn coding with Java and to innovate around Snap! and sustainability. It consisted of 4 workshops with an increasing difficulty level of Snap! learning modules, ending up with a design thinking challenge and thought leadership session on environmentalism. Britteney Laurenceau, Program Coordinator for the ForUsGirls Foundation & A NEW REALITY, described it as following:
“The Young Thinkers Innovation series was a wonderful experience to witness how enthusiastic students ages 10 to 17 were to join and actively participate in a gaming and animation Snap! coding program, on a Saturday afternoon. The coding instructor, Alicia Weaver, was engaging, knowledgeable, and personable to all attendees, ensuring that they were grasping concepts and following her lead, as she went through the learning material in the sessions for “Coding with Snap!”. Even while this was a virtual series, it was still apparent that attendees were glad for an opportunity to learn and practice using Snap! coding, by creating images and playing games. Some even presented their final results at the end of each session. Brilliant! It was also great to have SAP Young Thinker engineers and developers join the sessions and support the attendees in the chat.”
A special shout-out is in place for our A NEW REALITY co-leads Alicia Weaver (picture top), Experimental Learning Instructor Lead (intern) & first-year Posse Scholar at Smith College as well as Janani Shivakuma (picture middle), the founder and president of Girls Play Global. Both did an amazing job setting an example for other girls and young women to concur their space in science and tech. Also thank you to our SAP co-leads Alexis Ewanovich, Jadga Huegle, Tori Moore and William Laverde who built bridges to our SAP world, showing how the girls could find their space in it.
Get inspired yourself by reading Tori´s words on why this work is so important. Maybe you will find your opportunity too to support our next generation in making their way?
“When I was growing up, there were not many programs focused on encouraging young women, let alone young women of colour, to experience and experiment with technology. Representation matters and children being able to see someone that looks like them not only interested in a field of study but actually making a career out of it, really helps them envision doing something similar for themselves. This was the main reason I jumped at the opportunity to work with the ForUsGirls organization. Being a co-lead in a workshop for their “Coding with Snap!” series, sponsored in partnership with SAP Next-Gen Young Thinkers, was truly an exciting opportunity. Connecting with the next generation of women in tech left me inspired and hopeful for the increased exposure of girls and young women to coding!”
Working with mentors like Tori Moore creates a greater impact for young women and girls as they see other women who look like them pursue computer science, business and innovation. The Young Thinkers & Innovators were truly inspired and benefited from their experienced:
“I really liked the react workshop and learning how to use the conditional blocks.” Adriana, 15
“The presentation of this workshop was very well organized and planned, which was very useful as well as learning to do things independently by learning new skills.” Janelise, 12
The SAP Young Thinkers team is ready to collaborate for more opportunities like A NEW REALITY: Tech Summit for Girls, offering knowledge and skills for the girls to rise. Together, with other SAP teams like openSAP and our purpose driven team SAP4Good we thrive to come together supporting our next generation. With access to learning content, mentoring and volunteering for events and platforms to share new voices – let us all create a new reality for more women and girls in science.
Please feel motivated to comment on this blog posts with your thoughts, ask questions in the relevant tag Q&A area and follow our SAP Young Thinkers tag for more content around our next generation.
For Immediate Release: May 10, 2019
Second Edition of NYC Tech Summit Challenges Underprivileged Girls to Design Solutions to United Nations Global Goals
A NEW REALITY: Tech Summit for Girls is a high tech, mentally stimulating, and transformative experience that aims to spark innovative creativity in the minds of girls from marginalized communities. Summit participants will gain technical and leadership skills from top industry professionals, innovators, CEOs, and entrepreneurs. The experience aims to inspire and empower young women and girls to create their own learning opportunities, consider careers in STEM fields, and create for innovative solutions to issues impacting their community and the world.
NEW YORK, N.Y., May 10, 2019 – On Friday, May 24, 120 diverse girls will come together at SAP Next-Gen Hudson Yards for the second edition of A NEW REALITY – an immersive, women-led summit that will introduce them to the latest tech and digital trends in AI, blockchain, robotics, media, web & mobile development, and gaming.
Demand for women in the STEM fields is at an all-time high, yet the sector is still grappling with gender, racial, and economic inclusivity. This was recently illustrated by the cancelation of NASA’s historic all-women spacewalk and the stark disparities that came to light again on Equal Pay Day last month. The summit aims to continue tackling these issues by giving girls from marginalized communities the hands-on experience, inspiration, and confidence to forge their own paths.
During the full-day summit, participants will create their own innovative solutions to community problems in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Following the principles of design thinking, they will prototype their ideas after participating in multiple demo activation hubs and inspiring keynotes. Last year, speakers included women from UN Women, Facebook, New York Times, Hasso Plattner Institute & Columbia University; this year, the summit has attracted Co-Founder/President of ExecThread and Miss Black America, Ryann Richardson; Senior Vice-President and Global Head of SAP Next-Gen, Ann Rosenberg; Chemical Engineer turned style influencer Tiffany M, Battle; Founder & CTO FlyTechnista, TeLisa Daughtry; America’s #1 Mental Health and Wellness Expert, Dr. Tammy Lewis Wilborn.
A NEW REALITY was created by Aminka Belvitt, Founder & CEO Wofemtech Solutions Inc. and the Founder & President of The ForUsGirls Foundation – an international organization providing skills-based, mentorship, and leadership programs for underrepresented girls in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. A NEW REALTY: Tech Summit for Girls is made possible through the partnership of SAP Next-Gen, The MINDS Foundation and The World Economic Forum Global Shapers community, and sponsorship from ThinkSys Inc, Synergy Resource, Bitsian, and Wofemtech Solutions Inc.
The crucial support that A NEW REALITY provides extends far beyond one day; after attending the summit, participants will have a chance to create prototype apps for their solutions at Apple’s Grand Central store, participate in an immersive tour of the Samsung 837 innovation space in Manhattan, attend a design thinking workshop and summer coding program in partnership with SAP Next-Gen. This tripartite follow-up program is key to summit organizer Aminka Belvitt’s vision of creating new realities for girls in tech, which came to life following her own experiences as a minority woman:
“I’ve had the opportunity to access high-level international conversations, conferences, and summits through my roles as a Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment with UN Women, and as a One Young World gender equality advocate selected by UN Goodwill Ambassador, Emma Watson. I noticed that the most valuable aspect of bringing young people to the table is to focus the experience on them, and for them to be the center of focus by empowering them to own their learning and the decision-making power of outcomes that they are involved in. A NEW REALITY was created to provide those from underrepresented communities with the skill set to shape their career aspirations, as well as access to corporate spaces and mentors. Together, as a community, we want to ensure that every girl has the opportunity to explore her creativity and live out her full potential.”
The summit is proudly hosted by the SAP Next-Gen Innovation Space, on the 48th Floor of 10 Hudson Yards in Manhattan, and it will run from 9:00am to 5:00pm. To register a girl of color who is in grade 6-12, visit: https://www.anewrealitysummit.com/register.html
For more information on A NEW REALITY, visit www.anewrealitysummit.com
For any other enquiries, please contact Aliza Lalani, Press & Media Lead, at firstname.lastname@example.org | +1 917 306 1062
About A New Reality
A NEW REALITY: Tech Summit for Girls aims to spark innovative creativity in the minds of girls in grades 6-12 from underrepresented communities in NYC to prototype design solutions for the UN 17 Global Goals, and to consider careers in STEM fields. Our goal is for these girls to envision themselves in careers that have not traditionally been visible to them. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to join the conversation around empowering girls in tech.
NEW YORK CITY - A NEW REALITY inspired girls to be critical thinkers, artistic creators and tech innovators.
The summit featured high-level UN Women officials, academics, young medical professionals, senior Big 4 directors & partners, entrepreneurs, students, young professionals and creatives.
Girls were inspired by Elizabeth Nyamayaro's heroic personal journey to the top of UN Women, as a Senior Advisor to the Undersecretary of UN Women to the Executive Director and the head of the HeforShe Initiative.
Helen Molinier, Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship UNWOMEN provided a visual depiction of the gender disparities within the STEM, Innovation and Entrepreneurship space within most G8 countries.
The peak of the summit was highlighted by the high energy design thinking workshop provided by Dr. Joann Halpern, Director of The Hasso Plattner Institute located in New York City. Design thinking is a creative and innovative methodology and mindset that provides a human-centered approach to problem solving.
Summit participants were challenged to explore virtues of empathy and understanding with the girl sitting next to them. This provided the first step and basis to design thinking.
Following this highly engaging workshop the girls descended into the 10 creative hubs led by our fantastic facilitators: Jonathan Abu, Jennifer Abu, Chloe Taylor, Jazmin Tanner, Priyanka Jaisignhai, La June McMillian, Tracey Erike, May Yang, Shaaz Nasir, Raakhee Miller, and Keli Chiu, supported by experienced design and tech consultants Vernon Martin, Arpitha Shetty, QianQian Song, Eric Zhu and our partner and sponsor Hemant Ramachandra, a HeForShe Champion.
Surrounded by multi-talented and skilled professionals, entrepreneurs, and creatives our summit participants split into groups aligned with the community and global issues outlined by the SDGs and their individual lived experiences. In just under 2.5 hours, the girls crafted highly impressive, creative, and genius prototype solutions to combat homelessness, climate change, bullying, and poverty to list a few.
They received top-notch coaching. Arielle Gross, Business Lead to the VP of Global Business Marketing and Chief Creative at Facebook. Arielle shared her story of obtaining her engineering degree, being a girl in STEM and joining the Facebook team. She left the girls with two a valuable professional skills a solid handshake & a one-minute elevator pitch.
Her professional insight and tips assisted the girls in preparing for their prototype pitches for the final section of the summit. Each group had the opportunity to pitch their prototype and design process to all in attendance and to our three judges: Joan McCurdy, Shaaz Nasir
(Director of Digital Transformation, Microsoft) and Benedict Joan (Nelson Mandela Fellow), for a private prototyping and app creation session at Apple Grand Central Station! At the start it was announced that only three teams would be selected for the special prize.
All teams were spectacular, resulting in the event organizer, Aminka Belvitt, announcing that all participants would have the opportunity to attend one private prototyping and app session at the Apple Store. This opportunity was made possible through Apple Educational Services and its partnership with the ForUsGirls Foundation. Madness ensued on the 48th floor of Hudson Yards after the announcement!
The First Edition of A NEW REALITY: Tech Summit for Girls provided girls from diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds with creative, technical, personal and professional skills. The girls left with a mission to go out into the world and create new realities for themselves, their communities and the world!
This event was sponsored by ThinkSys Inc, Hemant Ramachandra, Wofemtech Solutions Inc, SAP Next-Gen and Toms River District School Board, and charitable receipts were provided by (US) charitable partner The MINDS Foundation.
Special thanks to Sandra Moerch Ben Christensen, and Ann Rosenberg for being the summit partners and hosts.
Join us for the Second Edition of A NEW REALITY.
Visit our website for information to come: www.anewrealitysummit.com