Story by Olumide Yerokun and Aran Hart.
We can’t deny the impact that mobile technology continues to have on how the world dynamically interacts. Our society is increasingly attached to our devices, plus we’re starting to wear more of it, and undoubtedly the impact has real effects. Not only does technology keep us connected to loved ones and drive business, it advances our understanding of the world around us — For example, collecting soil moisture levels, gathering, transmitting, and analyzing critical data as we strive to make improvements to vital industries such as agriculture to help feed a fast growing international population.
As women’s history month comes to an end we remember the past, and look to the future of women’s contributions to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields. Examples like Emmy Noether and her contributions to mathematics are certainly worthy of our praise as we consider who overcame obstacles to succeed in STEM.
Now, we consider the always interesting question for each new generation: How will the young women of today take the spark made by Noether (and others) and pave new paths?
We sat down with Linda Ansong, Nana Essuman and Dr. Jamie Bracey of STEMbees. STEMbees is a non-profit based in Accra, Ghana focused on encouraging and mentoring more young African women to pursue their dreams and careers in STEM.
Beyond STEMbees, Ms. Ansong is also Co- Founder of Vestracker AB, Dr. Bracey is Founder of Creative Tech Works Design Studio (CTW) in Philadelphia, and Mr. Essuman is the lead mentor at CTW who is now guiding the replication of CTW Design Studio in Ghana .
We discussed the upcoming City Streets Race during Philly Tech Week 2015, their experiences in STEM, influences, and the significance of striving for more involvement of women in the tech world.
- City Streets Race: April 25th — info / register your team
Olumide Yerokun: How was STEMbees Started?
Linda Ansong: In undergrad I studied actuarial science which is very math focused. After college I found myself in an institution called Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology for two years. A majority of my classes were male dominated and I saw this as a problem. I wanted to do something that would motivate and empower more young women to venture into STEM industries. Once I was able to tell Nana about my idea he introduced me to Dr. Bracey and we went from there.
OY: What is the goal of STEMbees and Creative Tech Works?
Nana Essuman: Both organizations have similar goals. The main focus is developing youth to build tech products that create stability and enrich their local communities. Creative Tech Works just happens to focus on youth as a whole and STEMbees focuses on young women. So through this we are able to take what Creative Tech Works has created with City Streets and work on transferring that model to Accra, Ghana. The first pilot is in December ’15, in Ghana, so we are working toward making it a great event for the youth.
OY: What is the inspiration behind the City Streets Race?
Dr. Bracey: We have a culture that likes to play games whether it is on the phone, a board game, or in real life. The goal was to figure out how to get people, specifically young people, to appreciate where they live and interact with technology at the same time.
We had the young people in the program write the code for the mobile app that will be used in the race. We then created a game around the race and we get the young people to engage with cultural icons in the city. It really stems from civil engagement where participants in the race are engaging and learning more about their city.
OY: What unique advantage do women bring to STEM industries?
Linda Ansong: Women are strong, critical, and systematic which is needed in the process of building technology. Having women on our team is the best thing that can happen because women have patience and an ability to bridge the gap in a lot of work environments.
Being outnumbered in most classes 10 to 1 gave me a unique perspective of where women can excel. It wasn’t that women couldn’t do the work it’s just that women needed to be motivated to pursue further education in STEM, past secondary school and through college.
OY: How did your culture influence you growing up?
Linda Ansong: Growing up I was the girl that wanted to know how this or that happened. I would watch Sci-Fi movies and be amazed by what was going on. I really enjoyed math and took a software development class in college that sparked my interest in tech. Both my parents are entrepreneurs which really influenced me, especially my mother. They gave me the strength to work toward my own dreams. Being from Ghana and having the ability to travel opened my eyes to a lot and gave me a new perspective on the opportunities of traveling. My mother told me I can either go travel just to shop or I can go travel learn a lot and create bigger opportunities for myself.
OY: What is the hope for women in STEM?
Dr. Bracey: The goal is for women to go from consumers to producers. To understand the value of technology, you don’t have to be an entrepreneur but at least understand the process of how the technology that you are using works. It’s developing women to be strategic and tactical at the same time.
Linda Ansong: My hope is to help young girls understand that it’s more than just understanding software or programming. I want young girls to understand that there is a large opportunity to create jobs, sustainability, and wealth for their community. It’s tough but it’s an amazing journey and experience to go from working for someone else to working for yourself. It’s powerful knowing that I’m helping show more young girls that they can do it as well.
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