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Empowering Rural African Girls in STEM: Insights from SheSTEAM Founder

In STEM education and careers, the voices of underrepresented groups often go unheard. In many parts of rural Africa, girls and young women face significant barriers to pursuing their dreams in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).


However, amidst these challenges are beacons of hope and inspiration, such as the remarkable work being done by SheSTEAM, an organization dedicated to empowering black youth and underrepresented women in Africa through technology integration in rural settings.


I recently spoke with the visionary behind SheSTEAM, Dr. Erica Bass-Flimmons, on the STEAM Sparks - Think STEAM Careers podcast. Dr. Bass-Flimmons shared invaluable insights into the journey of empowering girls and young women in rural Africa to pursue careers in STEM fields despite the obstacles they may encounter. Reflecting on her own experiences, Dr. Bass-Flimmons emphasized the importance of finding support and mentorship, building communities, and cultivating persistence and fearlessness. "When you're entering male-dominated fields, you're going to go against the grain a lot," Flemmon remarked. "Try to find your support; try to find a mentor." This advice rings especially true for young girls dreaming of careers in STEM. Mentorship can provide guidance, encouragement, and invaluable insights into navigating the challenges of pursuing a STEM career. Even if direct access to a mentor is limited, Dr. Bass-Flimmons suggests leveraging social media platforms to connect with professionals in the field and seek out opportunities for engagement and learning.


Furthermore, Dr. Bass-Flimmons underscores the community's significance in overcoming barriers and fostering a sense of belonging. She shared her experience of finding solidarity and support among like-minded individuals in the tech industry. "Find a community if you can," she advises. "Support each other, and don't be scared to reach out."


Again, persistence and fearlessness are also crucial attributes for aspiring STEM professionals. Dr. Bass-Flimmons acknowledges the inevitability of rejection and setbacks but encourages resilience in adversity. "Trust me, the worst they could say is no," she asserts. "Just keep asking, keep being persistent."


What makes my conversation with Dr. Bass-Flimmons more inspiring is her journey. Dr. Bass-Flimmons encountered skepticism and resistance but remained undeterred in pursuing international work in STEM education. She emphasizes the importance of following one's passion and taking bold steps, even without immediate support. "You can't be scared," she affirms. "Sometimes you have to just keep at it."


As our conversation concluded, Dr. Bass-Flimmons left a powerful message for young girls across rural Africa dreaming of a future in STEM: "You can do it, and just find someone to support you." Her words serve as a beacon of hope and encouragement, reminding us that with determination, resilience, and support, no dream is beyond reach.


In the mission to empower rural African girls in STEM, organizations like SheSTEAM and individuals like Dr. Bass-Flimmons are catalysts for change, paving the way for a more inclusive and diverse future in technology and innovation. As we continue to champion the voices and aspirations of underrepresented groups, let us heed Fleming's wisdom and forge ahead with unwavering determination and belief in every young girl's potential to achieve her STEM/STEAM dreams.


Dr. Ayo Olufade, Ph.D.

Choose STEAM Careers: Shape the Future, Design Your Destiny! ~ Dr. Ayo Olufade, PhD


Excel in Learning. Excel in Life.

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