Written by: Sarah Chase
Many organizations have been founded to motivate girls in STEM and each one has found different ways to make girls want to join STEM related activities. Chinaza Ogbonna created The Steministas, an organization that “empowers, connects, and recognizes women (in STEM) with an emphasis on diversity.”
Diversity in STEM has always been a challenge. The world has recognized the lack of diversity and now there are organizations such as Ogbonna’s who are changing the lack of inclusiveness.
“I want to create a space where women from all backgrounds can feel empowered and can come together to celebrate the accomplishments of these women in STEM,” Ogbonna said.
Ogbonna has also begun a podcast, which is something people do not see often when discussing women STEM empowerment. Ogbonna realized that in order to create change in STEM, you must begin a productive conversation. That conversation includes proving that women in STEM are always an advantage, how they contribute in STEM society, and the hard times they have overcome.
“We are currently expanding our platform to include more types of content but historically, we have discussed the lives of women in STEM,” Ogbonna said. “So I and sometimes a co-host talk to diverse women in STEM about their backgrounds, motivations, and challenges that got them to where they are today.”
Ogbonna emphasizes that no matter the background, women have always been in the most important position in STEM. She does not want that fact to get lost in stereotypes and be forgotten in the mind of society. Ogbonna knows that it is important to motivate girls in STEM and she does that by reminding girls that women have been and will always be successful in STEM.
“I think it’s important to have these discussions because often times, women (particularly in STEM) feel like we’re alone in our experiences and it can be easy to forget that women have ALWAYS been at the forefront in STEM and there are too many misconceptions that make us feel like we do not belong,” Ogbonna said. “So these stories help to show that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can thrive in whatever field you put your mind to, and it will not always be easy, but you are definitely not alone.”
The Steministas also hold events for anyone to join. They have had events based on self love, finding yourself, and are even holding a sit down event June 27 with Fernanda Sulantay, a Chemical Engineer.
“The events are themed around personal development topics. They are aimed at empowering women from all around the area so that we can all grow together. We have had events on self-love, finding your purpose, creating a peaceful environment for yourself, and so on,” Ogbonna said.
These events do a lot of good, but also takes planning. Ogbonna puts quality work behind her event planning to bring quality to the motivation of young women.
“I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I can have them catered so I plan all the refreshments, Hors D’oeuvres, the content of the event, any resources that might come with it, reach out to people, create graphics, promote it on our platforms... and then after the event, get feedback from the attendees. It takes a decent amount of planning,” Ogbonna said.
Advice is challenging to give on these subjects because everyone has a different experience, but Ogbonna read a quote by Maya Angelou and it had a big impact on her and how she motivates women in STEM.
“‘I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side’. You have to be your biggest cheerleader especially when you’re putting yourself, ideas, and passions into the world. It’s really hard but you can’t ask people to believe in something that you don’t even believe in. Your mindset is your most undervalued asset,” Ogbonna said.
Ogbonna says that she is changing and learning constantly because of this experience. She not only has been encouraging others, but this has also been encouraging for her. She hears stories from others, learns their backgrounds and notices how similar she is with others and how she is not alone in her experiences.
“I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how much we are not alone. No matter where we come from, we share similarities in our experiences,” Ogbonna said. “For example, almost every woman I have spoken to has experienced imposter syndrome at least once in their lives, almost every woman I’ve spoken has talked about a time when they faced a challenge and it didn’t go right the first or second time, and they just had to keep going... and it’s so encouraging and uplifting to hear all these stories. When I hear of women who pursue their dreams despite all odds, I’m inspired to break out of the boxes that I or society keeps putting me in.”