“There is a bridging that needs to happen. There needs to be a meeting of the minds in some of the Black communities to understand what the hesitance is, why the resistance, and start to work through them.”
~ Kameelah S. Majied, PMP
In this episode, and in honor of recognizing Black History Month, I interviewed Kameelah S. Majied about Black women in engineering and STEM.
Black History Month is an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. history. Also known as African American History Month, the event grew out of “Negro History Week,” the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.
Here Are Some of the Key Points Discussed About Black History Month and Women in Engineering and STEM:
- The mission of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) is to increase the amount of responsible Black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally, and positively impact the community.
- NSBE, started in the year 1975, is one of the largest student-run organizations. This year there are approximately 20,000 members.
- NSBE has three segments of talent:
- NSBE Junior: Pre-college individuals who seek exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)
- Collegiate: Undergraduate and graduate students majoring in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics (STEM) at a collegiate institution or graduate-level students who majored in STEM as undergraduates.
- NSBE Professional: Working professionals and graduate students who majored in science, technology, engineering, and/or mathematics who seek to fulfill NSBE’s mission via avenues for networking and professional development while giving back to the community.
- Black History Month was first called Negro Week. It is the recognition and celebration of all the contributions of Blacks to history. Black history is so important that everyone should focus on it.
- The concept of people engineering is how you get people to function like a machine and to get them harmonized in terms of how they think and take an engineering approach to what they do every day. To do this, we need to get everyone involved in a project to focus on the finished product. The idea is to take the same train of thought and apply it to what we are all working toward. It is getting people to take the same concepts utilized in your discipline and what you are trained on, and solve real-life solutions.
- STEM is in everything we do. Science, technology, engineering, and math is the foundation of global business. When there is a product that is being sold, there are engineers behind the design, manufacturing, and ultimately how the product can be used by the buyers. Business is driven by experts, ideas, and innovation to increase their customer base and drive their bottom-line revenue.
- There is a deficit in representation for Blacks and Black women in STEM. There are very few Black women in executive leadership in the top 500 companies. Young Black girls in different cities and states need to have the opportunity to look up to someone who looks like them and aspire to be like them. The workforce representing diversity will benefit from diverse thoughts, talents, and voices to how things develop. One of the biggest problems Black women face in STEM is access, opportunity, and representation. Many people do not know about the opportunities that they can develop. Therefore, they need access and opportunity so that they can see what is available for them.
- In recent years, Black communities have been polled and asked to answer questions like, “Do you trust your medical provider?” and “If you have a common cold, are you going to the doctor?” Their answers are almost always no. Based on the data from the polls, there is no level of comfort in these areas. It is due to medical practices performed on Black people in the 1920s through 1950s. Many Black people died from these practices. It was due to the rise in racial inequality, but now, in 2021, this is not the case anymore. But the ill trust in medical practitioners has been passed on down through the generations. Some deep African cultural remedies escalate the cultural element to the situation. Trust needs to be built with these communities to bridge the gap between the inequalities, the lack of access, and being educated.
- One of the largest setbacks for Black women to move forward in STEM is fear. Fear is something that we all experience; it creates an invisible barrier that prevents us from moving forward. This is where NSBE comes into NSBE is a very intertwined family. They see one another, they see themselves in one another, and they all have the same interest in STEM. They take their knowledge and curiosity and put it all together to start getting university degrees. NSBE creates a communal platform where they can engage and connect for support and mentorship. Having a solid foundation like NSBE is a great way to get help and overcome the fear.