That STEM education and career is predominantly a male and white field is no secret. That is why as innov8tiv, we always endeavor to shine the spotlight on the upcoming number of minorities who are trying to make an impact in this field. In line with that, we like to introduce to you, Nadiyah Johnson, a female techie who has set up a hub to nurture other minority groups into the world of STEM. Without further blurbs, let’s hear from Nadiyah.
1. Tell us about yourself
I have a very technical and nontechnical artsy background. People think it’s impossible for someone to have both. Graduated from Marquette University with a Bachelor’s in Computer Science and Masters in Computational Science.
I’ve had the opportunity to engage in STEM field through research, academia, corporate and now in the tech startup space. over the course of what I call my STEM journey, I have seen a pattern of lack of representation. There were very few people that looked like me in the room.
In 2017, I heard that there were significant efforts put forth to turn Milwaukee into a tech hub. I would visit events around this effort and be the only Black person there. This pushed me to start my social impact software company, which aims to address the lack of representation in STEM.
Jet Constellations is a growing software company with expanding opportunities, providing technology solutions in social responsible industries.
Jet Constellations cultivates the intersection of creativity and community, driving advancements in various functions of urban society – the scientific, entrepreneurial, and social.
3. What are some of the challenges you, as Jet Constellations, face in Milwaukee, WI
Milwaukee is transforming into a Tech Hub! There is a lot of competition. Being a Black-owned software company in the heart of the city is not the norm. Building trust and credibility in the tech ecosystem has been an uphill battle. Milwaukee’s overall tech community has been fairly supportive, however.
A lot of my inspiration to start my business comes from the awareness of the dire need for diversity in STEM especially technology. As Milwaukee is transforming into a tech hub, I want Black and Brown people to have a voice and say in what this looks like.
Jet Constellations’ Milky Way Tech Hub initiative is an effort to create a tech hub that mirrors Milwaukee’s diverse populations. This is a grassroots effort led by the people and fueled by strategic partnerships.
Our most recent and significant partnership is with American Family Social Impact Institute. They are working with us to empower diversity in the startup ecosystem in Milwaukee. November 16th we’ll be hosting a pitch competition to inspire people of Milwaukee to leverage technology to uplift the community.
6. What are some of the barriers to Diversity and Inclusion in the Tech Industry?
I would say exposure and access. You don’t know what you don’t know. One of the things that we are doing with our Milky Way Tech Hub initiative is educating people in traditional and non-traditional educational settings. Showing them not only the amazing possibilities tech has to offer but also how to gain access to these opportunities.
7. Mentions a few unique challenges women of color face with regards to their pursuit to join STEM education and professional careers
Being a woman in computer science, it was rare to see people in a classroom that looked like me. This hindered my confidence a bit in the classroom. This is not an uncommon experience for women. I also think that the culture in STEM fields could stand improvement around embracing women. There are far too many spaces in STEM fields that still have a ‘boys club’ vibe making it difficult for women to navigate.
8. How could private organizations and government institutions improve on efforts towards achieving diversity in STEM?
There needs to be more deliberate efforts to build on the cities capital. I would like to see more private and public fund partnerships to build out larger funds that can help to accelerate the startup growth in Milwaukee specifically.
9. What’s your advice to the youths from diverse backgrounds with regards to the pursuit of STEM education and careers?
You belong in STEM fields. The industry needs you! Your perspectives are necessary. Never doubt that. Follow your curiosity and you will be led to your purpose