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#ProudToBeBlack FoundersInStem - Wenite Black History Month

On the 14th of October 2021 Wenite STEM hosted a #ProudToBeBlackFoundersInSTEM event. The event saw 13 organisations come together with attendees from different fields. The founders on the day came together to talk about their experiences and show black students the support available to them !

“We exist, We are here to help and we are here to STAY”

Being black in STEM is a journey with many twists and turns, there are numerous published articles on the difficulties and barriers black graduates face. Most recently in a BBC article, a focus on academia again ! While the STATS for black professors are disheartening, this also filters across different sectors. How do black students stay the course and climb up the career ladder feeling supported and heard? The #ProudToBeBlackFounders event was that space of showing the range of industry professionals and leaders willing to help. The companies present represented the pharmaceutical industry, academic pathways, medicine and all corners of STEM with a focus on mentorship, support and guidance.

The powerful keynote speech by Dr Abdullahi Sheriff , BBBA STEM senior Leader of the year 2020, set the tone for the event: Striving for excellence on your own terms even if it means taking the “scenic route”. Why science? for Dr Sheriff he shared that, science allowed him to innovate and his scenic route involved stretching himself for the pursuit of knowledge.

“There is no need to apologise or worry about how you perceived or who you are” - Dr Abdullhai Sheriff

Visibility is important for anyone pursuing any career path and it is clear that REPRESENTATION MATTERS. The event centres around students feeling more empowered, informed and hopefully resulting in increased confidence to take chances and pursue the STEM field of their choice. The importance of highlighting these founders and organisations, shows the power of coming together and from the outside looking in, other organisations will value collaboration and know who to approach for different outreach activities when it comes to Black and STEM graduates.

The event had a single message for organisations looking to support #BlackFounders #BlackStudents and #BlackProfessionals.

“Give opportunity and we will absolutely surprise you when you ALLOW diverse talent to thrive”

The #FireSideChat with the panelist produced a space for the panelist to really talk through the missions of their organisations and attendees to ask questions. The discussion of the evening, Led by Jennifer, Founder of Wenite, followed the journeys of the founders, asking what organisations could do more of !

Here are the main takeaways from the panelists, Wande, A Director at Novartis who volunteers across a number of organisations supporting diverse talents including Wenite - highlights the importance of building that confidence as a professional to put yourself in spaces you want to be seen in. She acknowledges the constant battle with imposter syndrome that many people face but to push through in times of adversity and lean into the support network you have built. Wande shares that her journey in science is motivated by helping people into and through the pharmaceutical industry and even if it's just one thing

“Know your worth and pursue that excellence. As black people in white spaces, you cannot hide if you tried, so use that “ - Wande

Tomi, BWIS Founder - BWIS was formed as a support network and needing a community in science. Her talk really hones in on the importance of mentorship and community”. BWIS has been a pillar of support for many and herself. Not having had a straightforward journey, the network has kept her going through a time where she just wanted to quit. Her pursuit of science is the pursuit of knowledge and just being nosy !

“Its difficult loving a field and being rejected again and again” -Tomi

Kim, Co-founder of Black Pharma - Similar to bwis, the network was created to find people more like her in pharma and support each other through the industry. Her talk also highlights the importance of being seen and valued in the workplace. Her line manager took a chance on her and that had a great impact on her journey.

“Everyone's dream job is in pharma and you can leverage many skill sets, with great global impact “ - Kim

Dr Ajeleti, Co-founder Modern Day Medics - From a former biology teacher to becoming a medic, his talk really focuses in on the point of belonging and pursuing what you want. Modern day medics takes people through the journey of pursuing medicine but also highlighting other routes within science, STEM and healthcare in general.

“I love science because WE ARE SCIENCE” - Dr Ajeleti

The event ended with a networking session. Networking is difficult for many but the select few that aren’t afraid of rejection. Oftentimes students and people early in their careers find networking daunting and awkward. Another aim of the event was to get people networking, providing a bridge to making it easy to identify organisations and people to work with, connect with and seek advice from. From a student perspective, it is very difficult to know who to approach, but the event through the founders making themselves visible, who also represent the members of their groups bridges that gap on who is willing to be approached.

Finally as an attendee and Q and A host, it wouldn’t be a TCIM blog post without a few tips and take homes from the event.

Tips on networking and the pursuit of excellence

  1. Network across with your peers that attended the vent

  2. Network above with people in fields and positions you aspire to be

  3. Believe in yourself and aspire to wanting to be different

  4. Go for the opportunities and SHOW UP after making yourself visible

  5. Define what excellence means for you and strive for that

  6. Apply for Jobs early, you have nothing to lose and exposure to the recruitment process.

Science is about helping and making a difference that doesn’t only have to be achieved through medicine. STEM is the pursuit of innovation and exploration, so write the future you want to be a part of.

You can find the event playback here.

For more information about the organisations and their founders, watch their highlights summary here: Speakers & Sponsors


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