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Despite many career strides, encouraging Black girls to pursue STEM careers is still greatly needed. For example, in 2019, Edutopia published an article written by Carly Berwick about how stereotypes and cultural norms dampen girls’ interest in STEM. However, educators could counter the disparities with small changes to their practice. Additionally, Nicole Joseph, assistant professor of mathematics and science education at Vanderbilt University research, was quoted as stating that research has shown that Black girls view themselves as outsiders in mathematics, and teachers view them as outsiders, too.

But solutions are at work, to close the gender and race gap, with the help of companies and organizations, in addition to educators. Tech leader Microsoft, and Beverly Bond—who is founder and CEO of the award-winning women’s empowerment, lifestyle, and philanthropic brand BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® — just announced ‘a strategic partnership to build technology infrastructure and empower more Black girls to become leaders through access to culturally relevant programs, leadership development, and STEM skills.’ Black Girls Rock Inc. has been devoted to the healthy, positive identity development of young women and girls by providing programs that support critical thinking, leadership development, sisterhood, innovation, civic engagement and career exposure. Now, more goals can be achieved in some of these areas.

The press release stated that the goal of the alliance is to strengthen the transformative work of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® with the technology and scale of the Microsoft’s ecosystem.

“It’s remarkable to be championed by a towering institution like Microsoft to propel the work we’ve been doing at BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® to educate, empower and inspire the next generation,” Beverly Bond said in the announcement. “This partnership gives BLACK GIRLS ROCK! the support necessary to expand our work to help more girls find their voices, define their truths, and forge the futures they envision.”

Marcie Nymark, director of Strategic Partnerships for Microsoft, added that Microsoft shares BLACK GIRLS ROCK’s commitment to empowering women and girls.

“We also recognize the challenges facing women, especially Black women, are complex – no one organization can solve them all. That’s why we’re excited to partner with Beverly and BLACK GIRLS ROCK! to bring together our efforts to educate and inspire the next generation of innovators,” Nymark also stated in the press release.

Resources, programs, and tech solutions will reportedly support three key initiatives, which include a BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Book Club launching this month, BLACK GIRLS ROCK 15-year Anniversary Fundraising Gala in June, and a BLACK GIRLS LEAD Leadership Conference in July.

Further details explained that the partnership will officially kick-off with the launch of the first BLACK GIRLS ROCK!® Book Club and workshop April 14, at 12pm EST/9am PST featuring Bond’s book BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Owning Our Magic. Rocking Our Truth!, and facilitated by BLACK GIRLS ROCK alumna Kathie Duperval. The virtual event will be free and open to the public. Registration should be completed through Microsoft Store events.

Additionally, Microsoft Store will host each book club event which will be followed by an interactive virtual workshop designed for students and inspired by the book’s core themes and motifs. Microsoft will be the presenting sponsor of the BLACK GIRLS ROCK 15-year Anniversary Fundraising Gala. Musical performances will include Chaka Khan’s. It was also announced that the BLACK GIRLS LEAD conference, powered by Microsoft Teams, will bring together teen girls to participate in workshops, panel discussions, and lectures led by world-class educators, artists, business moguls, scientists, entertainers and other influencers.

Source: Blackenterprise.com

Adeola Shasanya, is the co-founder of Afro-Tech Girls, an organisation with the aim of inspiring and encouraging more girls and young women to embrace STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Across the world, women remain underrepresented in STEM fields and this is especially true in Nigeria and so many African countries. In June 2014, Adeola and two of her friends came together with a vision: a world where the number of women in the STEM industries has risen and women feel welcomed and appreciated for their efforts and achievements. They realised that one way to do this was by encouraging more young girls to take up STEM subjects at secondary school and university and stick with it even after education. That was how Afro-Tech Girls was born.

Afro-Tech Girls holds STEM events across the country for secondary school students as well as supply “STEM at home” kits to women and girls.

Growing up, Adeola was always found tinkering with gadgets attempting to fix them. She also loved watching science/tech themed cartoons. In school, she particularly enjoyed science and math and did very well in them. Leaving secondary school, she got mentored by a senior family friend who had just completed her degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering. After winning the student prize award in Applied electricity, she had the desire to further my knowledge by studying Electrical and Electronics Engineering which enabled her appreciate technology.

Adeola has gained work experience in project management and consulting in both engineering and technology. She’s currently the Project Manager, Digital Skills for Africa at Google.

Adeola’s engineering degree is from Covenant University, Nigeria, and she also has a masters degree in Renewable Energy and Clean Technology from the University of Manchester.

Adeola is one of the 50 women spotlighted in Tech Cabal’s Tech Women Lagos series profiling 50 women in the Lagos technology ecosystem from different backgrounds and at different stages of their technology careers.

In 2019, Adeola won an ELOY award for her contribution to ICT and Technology. In 2017, Afro-Tech Girls won the SME 100 Nigeria, 25 under 25 Young Entrepreneurs Award in the Technology and Cybersecurity category.

We celebrate Adeola for contributing her quota to making STEM education accessible to women and girls and we’re rooting for her.

Mattel’s Barbie has announced three new dolls in partnership with Virgin Atlantic.

Created to encourage young girls to pursue careers in aviation, the three dolls include a pilot, engineer and member of the cabin crew.

The new dolls are part of Barbie’s Dream Gap Project, which was launched to combat the fact that girls as young as five can start to limit self-belief and doubt their full potential. This initiative aims to level the playing field for girls globally and highlight role models across a number of industries.

Virgin Atlantic has highlighted pilots and engineers for these new Barbies because, according to the Women’s Engineering Society, just 12 per cent of the UK engineering workforce is female and just 4.3 per cent of UK pilots are women.

Nikki Humphrey, SVP of People at Virgin Atlantic, said: “We know that women are currently underrepresented across a number of careers within aviation. We also know we can’t change this position overnight. Therefore it’s imperative we play the long-game, highlighting to primary aged children that any job role is open.

“Our partnership with Barbie marks another milestone in our commitment to this. It’s astounding that girls start believing they can’t follow a certain career path from as young as five and it’s our ambition we close this dream gap. By working with Barbie, it allows us to speak directly to our future generation of aviation workers, whether they aspire to be cabin crew, engineers or pilots.”

Virgin Atlantic’s cabin crew Barbie (Virgin Atlantic)

Designed to show both ethnic and body diversity, the dolls have been designed to reflect real Virgin Atlantic workers with the pilot doll wearing flat shoes – a step away from Barbie’s signature heel – and the engineer wearing flat safety boots.

All three dolls will be on sale on board Virgin Atlantic flights and in select stores later this year.

 

Credit: EveningStandard

Doctors stole her cells. Henrietta Lacks was an accidental pioneer of modern-day medicine; her cells are saving lives today even though she died in 1951.

Lacks was a 31-year-old mother of five when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. Just months before her death, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore sliced pieces of tissue from her cancerous tumor without her consent — in effect, stealing them. It was another instance of decades of medical apartheid and clinical practices that discriminated against blacks. Lacks was not a slave, but parts of her cancerous tumor represent the first human cells ever bought and sold.

Her cells, known among scientists as HeLa, were unusual in that they could rapidly reproduce and stay alive long enough to undergo multiple tests. Lacks’ cells — now worth billions of dollars — live in laboratories across the world. They played an important part in developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization. The HeLa cell line has been used to develop drugs for treating herpes, leukemia, influenza and Parkinson’s disease. They’ve been influential in the study of cancer, lactose digestion, sexually transmitted diseases and appendicitis.

Lacks’ story is an example of the often-problematic intersection of ethics, race, and medicine, a link to the dark history of exploitation of, and experimentation on, African-Americans that ranges from the Tuskegee syphilis study to a 19th-century doctor experimenting with gynecological treatments on slave women without anesthetics.

Bolanle Banwo is a brand Identity designer from Lagos, Nigeria. She helps brands tell compelling stories via creative designs. Much of her work is centered around helping small and medium businesses create smart impressions and build strong identities via good communication designs. Bolanle is the Founder and Lead Creative at the Female Designer Movement, an initiative she launched with a mission to train and equip women with design skillset and thereby help increase the number of women in the Nigerian Technology ecosystem. She shares her story and the inspiration behind her initiative in this interview.

Growing Up
I have always loved Art and Art related subjects right from nursery school. I found myself always illustrating on paper and anything I could find. I drew so much all my school notes were filled with drawings from the back. For me drawing came naturally and it was a way to ease myself. I think all those experiences contributed in preparing me for today.

Meet Me
I’m Banwo Omobolanle , a Brand Identity, User Interface / User experience designer, Illustrator and Animator. I am the Founder and Lead Creative at The Female Designer Movement, an initiative borne out of my desire to see more women actively involved in the Nigerian Technology / Design ecosystem.
I’m also a lover of good food and I hope to travel to china soon to have a plate of their locally made noodles in spicy soup.

Being a Brand Identity designer
Basically, I help brands tell compelling visual stories through intelligent design, illustrations and animations. Every brand has a unique identity and message that they would like to convey to their audience. My job entails coming up with creative visual content.

Challenges
People say Nigeria is beginning to embrace Art, But I think even if we are…It’s not fast enough. We need more initiatives in place to protect Art and everything related to it. My dream is to see people confidently take up Design as a profession without fear of not earning enough.

Inspiration behind Female Designer Movement
The Female Designer Movement is an initiative I launched to equip women with design skillset. I have nursed the idea in my heart for a while and decided to go ahead and launch it this year. Our first meetup held on the third of March while the other was held on March 10th. We had over 150 ladies who registered for the sessions. The response has been awesome and exciting, and we’ve only just started.
The ultimate goal is to increase the number of women in the Design and Tech industry. I desire to see more and more women get technical skillsets and take on important roles on tech companies and work on interesting projects in the industry. We intend to reach more females in secondary schools and keep training and creating opportunities for more and more of them across the country and then we’ll to other African countries eventually. It’s a huge project and I’m excited at the interesting journey that lies ahead of us. We plan to go even bigger, to reach out to more women around Nigeria. We can only achieve this by getting the support we need. So we are open to partnerships and support from individuals and organisations.


Reward
As regards TFDM, my greatest reward is the genuine joy and satisfaction displayed on the faces of the people we trained. Knowing that what I do or did helped add tangible value to their lives, which will go on to affect their careers…it’s a priceless feeling.
I think it’s about the same thing with my other works with brands that I create designs for. The satisfaction they show at the work I deliver, and knowing how important it is to them is actually very encouraging. I like to do work that matters and being able to achieve that is the greatest reward anyone can hope for.

Where I see my brand in 5 years
I see us becoming the most recognized training institute for women in Nigeria. I also see us making immeasurable impact in other African countries as well.

Giving up
Definitely, there were times I felt like just leaving this profession to do something completely different. I held on because of the genuine love I have for design. I place fulfilment above everything other thing.

Who and what inspire me to be better
I have a couple of people who have inspired me over time. Paula Scher and Chris Do are some of these people. I am inspired by the work that they do and the impact that they make.

Being a Woman of Rubies
Over time, I have had to be strong, focused and relentless. I have seen myself grow into becoming the woman I am now. I have not allowed obstacles stop me from doing what I love.

Final word for young women all over the world
I would like to encourage every young woman not to give up on themselves and on their dreams, Don’t look down on yourself and never allow yourself feel like you can’t do anything. Learn, develop yourself, your skill and of course tell God your plans so he can show you the best way to achieve it. You can be anything. You can do anything.

Adeola Deborah Olubamiji was born oin Ibadan to the family of Mr. & Mrs. Isaac & Juliana Olubamiji. She attended Alafia Public Primary School and St. Gabriel’s Secondary Commercial School in Mokola, Ibadan, Nigeria. Despite her humble beginning as a child hawker, she surmounted all odds to become the senior prefect girl of her secondary school. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Physics (with Electronics) from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Nigeria in 2008 and a Masters of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland in 2011. In June 2017, Adeola received her PhD in Biomedical Engineering from University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada and made history as the first black person to have received this PhD from the university. Dr. Adeola is currently the Lead Metallurgist / Material Engineer at Burloak Technologies (The Advanced Additive Manufacturing Division of Samuel Sons & Co) in Ontario, Canada.

Dr. Adeola is a consultant and the founder of 3D-Tech Centrix, Ontario, Canada: A consulting firm specializing in development of 3D-printing technology and related manufacturing solutions for use in different industries. In July 2017, Dr. Adeola was chosen and celebrated as one the top 5 of 150 black women making Canada better for her contributions in Science and Technology by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. She was also recently presented a prestigious award as the Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Education by the Nigerian-Canadian Community in a ceremony held in Toronto, Canada. Dr. Adeola’s passion for community building through volunteering is limitless and unquantifiable. Dr. Adeola is an “ardent” STEM advocate and she has continued to serve as a positive role model to the inner-city black youths in her Canadian community and around the world. From her savings, Dr. Adeola organizes regular STEM events and industrial tours for black youths in Ontario’s black communities to help youths discover what engineers do, and to expose them to STEM career opportunities available to them. Adeola whose story went viral two weeks ago shares her inspiring story with me in this mind-blowing interview.

 

Growing Up

I have 3 brothers and my only sister is late. I was born in Mokola Ibadan and attended Alafia Primary School and St Gabriel’s Secondary Commercial School in Mokola, Ibadan. We didn’t have much, so my siblings and myself learned to share and work together as a team quickly. My parents worked hard to ensure that we had food to eat, clothes to wear and made it a point of duty to get us to our schools on time. My mom is a workhorse and she woke up at 3 am daily to go to “Shasha Market” in Ibadan to conduct her pepper buying business.

Although my dad was unable to attain tertiary education, he is from a well-educated extended family. A few of my dad’s family members had PhDs, so my dad hung their photographs on the wall in our living room. At every opportunity my dad got, he regaled us with their success stories and explained how education took them abroad. Therefore, I ended up following the footpath of one of my uncles, Professor Abiodun Francis Oluwole who is a Professor of Nuclear Physics, to obtain a BSc in Physics with Electronics from Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye.

Hawking at age 10 made me more determined

Looking at my parent’s life, they both worked hard to care for us but we didn’t have any form of luxury. So, I learned quickly as a child that “to earn more, you must learn more.” In addition, the daily reminder was on the wall of our living room and it was clear that I needed to be “EDUCATED” to make valuable contribution to a knowledge-based society, to earn respect and to earn more money than my parents. As such, I promised myself to strive to know more critical facts, gather more information than the average person and be the best and nothing but the best.

 

 First black person to bag a PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the university of Saskatchewan

Biomedical Engineering is a recently added branch of Engineering with capability to bring us closer to huge healthcare-related innovations and inventions. However, Nigerians and the black population in general are slowly just breaking into the field. In fact, it is almost impossible to find journal papers or conference proceedings authored by Africans (at least from the last names or first names) in the field of Biomedical Engineering. The shortage of blacks in this thriving field and shortage of women in engineering makes me feel “lonely” sometimes among my peers. Therefore, I will to continue to advocate for the introduction of the branches of Biomedical Engineering to Nigerian Universities, encourage and advocate for admission of more women into engineering disciplines, and to continue to encourage other engineers who are willing to transition to come and join me in this limitless, exciting and innovative field.

 

Choice to study biomedical engineering

Several health impairments and issues of failed diagnosis that could benefit from Biomedical Engineering technologies face Nigeria and Nigerians. With a BSc in Physics with Electronics, the Biomedical Engineering career path paved way for me to acquire the knowledge needed to help develop solutions to tackle the above-mentioned issues. Some of the areas that I am currently vast on are medical physics and clinical engineering, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine, material development and 3D-printing, and e-health and telemedicine.

 

What and who inspires me

 

What Inspires me: As a Scientist, I am challenged and inspired by the possibilities and potentials of technology, and the fulfillment I get from solving difficult problems. As an engineer, I am inspired by industry 4.0 (e.g. 3D-printing) and its design and manufacturing capabilities. As a Nigerian, the complicated problems that I faced or my people in Nigeria face inspire me. On a daily basis, I go to work knowing that I am paying the price to acquire the knowledge and the skill-sets required to help bring back innovative manufacturing solutions to fix, improve, and tweak Nigeria’s mostly dead metal and plastic manufacturing industries.

Who inspires me: The humble background and huge historic contributions of Jesus Christ made Him my first inspiration. My middle name is Deborah and the realization of Deborah’s role as the First Female Judge in Israel, a Warrior, a Wife and a Mother made me choose her my second role model/inspiration. Furthermore, one of the men on the wall of our living room, Prof. Abiodun Francis Oluwole, inspired me to study Physics. At the moment, I have chosen Dr. Ndubuisi Ekekwe as one of my inspirations for his ability to combine successful academic credentials, technology and entrepreneurship. 

 

Greatest Reward

There are a few of them, after many years of research and development; the ultimate reward is receiving the PhD honour itself.  Seeing my narrative go viral to touch lives around the world provided me with the re-assurance that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, hard work and prayers are not old school and they in fact can make you a superstar. Then, securing a job as a lead engineer after my PhD and starting my career in a company that allows me utilize most of my acquired knowledge and skills made the whole process well worth it. Lastly, the smiles and tears of joy that rolled down my father’s face when he heard that I successfully defended my thesis was rewarding and very satisfying.

Recognition

In terms of recognition, I was recognized as 5thof 150 black women making Canada better during the celebration of Canada at 150 (link:http://cbc.ca.mevn.net/radio/upclose. I was also recognised by the Nigerian Canadian Association as a “Woman of Outstanding Achievement in Education” in celebration of Canada at 150 and the award was presented to me at a Gala attended by Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Bar. Ahmed Hussen, the Ooni of Ife HRM Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, Mama Nike Davies-Okundaye of Nike Art Gallery and so on.

 

Challenges

My PhD was not plain sailing; there were setbacks, frustrating moments, doubts, failed relationship and several failed experiments. The isolation that comes with embedding myself in research and making it my boyfriend, family and best friend was a challenge. There were moments when I slept at the University for several days in order to collect data and only went home to shower. But the most challenging aspect of the PhD by far was the job search that comes at the end of the PhD by far was the job search that comes at the end of the PhD. 

 

Perception of Hawking

Child street-hawking is often driven by poverty, deplorable living conditions, illiteracy and unemployment. According to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is an offence to involve children in child-labour practices such as child hawking. However, this is the only mean of survival for some families and its eradication will be very tough.

 

Has there ever been a time that you feel like giving up?

The thinking of giving up is inevitable for every PhD student. Half way through my PhD, I felt like I could do something else with my life. I felt like the PhD was standing in the way of me starting my life, buying a house, finding love and getting married. I felt like it was a shear waste of time and energy and that an MSc was already more than enough.

Unfortunately, I lost my sister to cervical cancer during that time and that gave me the motivation to carry on. I thought I would do it for my sister and my dad who already started calling me doctor and never stopped encouraging me.

Contributing to Nation building back home

In recent times, the society and social media has continued to showcase role models who make education look ‘old school’, who make science look too hard, abstract and for the exceptional ones. Africa as a continent needs to start projecting scientists are role models and investing in productive education and technology aside entertainment, fashion, and cosmetics. As a STEM advocate, I’m willing to help develop hands-on programs to help motivate these students to learn and love Sciences and get exposure to Technology in a fun way. Since kids learn by doing, these programs will provide an avenue for them to connect the theoretical science taught in schools with practical science that results from these theories.

In order to conquer the extreme dependency of Nigeria and Nigerians on China and the West for metal and plastic goods, Nigeria must invest in digitized manufacturing now. The combination of “3D-printing technology” and some other manufacturing techniques will allow achievement of faster product development and consequently enable manufacturing of polymeric and metallic products at reasonable costs. This will also foster raising of young entrepreneurs and enable creation of more jobs for our engineering graduates who are forced to work in the banking sector, wait for years to secure a position in the energy sector, or move abroad to seek greener pastures.

As a scientist who has a large network of professionals, has explored both plastics and metal 3D-printing and tried several conventional manufacturing techniques, my team is capable and able to help with the set-up of a “Manufacturing Hub for Africa” in Nigeria if given a chance. 3D-printing technology is rapidly growing across multiple industries and applications: medical applications (e.g. surgical implants, prosthesis, dental, and tissue-engineered tissues and organs), aerospace applications (OEMs for airplanes and fighter jets), automotive applications (OEMs for car engines), energy industries (customized valves, heat exchangers), tooling for plastics processing, and manufacturing of customized consumer plastic products and decorations.

 

I am a Woman of Rubies

 My life and my journey so far have made me conclude that I am an unrepeatable miracle of God. 

Final word for women who have or about to lose hope because of certain setbacks.

Dear woman, with the advent of technology, the world is at your fingertip. Do not wait to be served information on a platter of gold as your power lies in how much information you acquire. Dear woman, who are you and why are you here? My go to quote is “if you don’t stand for something, you will stand for everything or anything, and when you stand for everything or anything, you stand for nothing”. My dear women, let’s altogether renew our minds, be our own saviours, our own rescue and love ourselves enough. Finally, I beseech you to dare to be limitless, dare to start that business, dare to launch that company, dare to channel that cause, dare to be different, dare to study science and dare to be innovative
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