Photo courtesy of Enlara Ndum | Pictured above (from left to right): Oreofe, Enlara Ndum, Presley Owusu-Bonsu, Qyela January, Dr.Daniel McSpadden, Shadiyah Cammack, Ashlee Elijha, Roslyn Davis and Zion Williams at the WOCSTEM conference.
Congratulations, if you are a Black woman you are officially a double minority!
What does a double minority mean? This mean you get double the stereotypes, double the discrimination and double the emotional burden of simply being human. It is sad that we live in a society where humanity is unequally distributed based on gender. Because of this factor, Black women do not take enough time to celebrate their unique selves and accomplishments.
This is why movements such as #Blackgirlsrock, #Blackgirlpower and #Blackgirlmagic were created, to validate the fact that Black women are indeed strong, powerful and visible. Statistics show Black women are currently the number one most educated group in America. So why aren’t we celebrated?
Two weekends ago I, along with fellow TRiO SS students, attended a Women of Color Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (WOCSTEM) conference held in Detroit. Shania Tsupros defined STEM as the “Interdisciplinary approach to learning where rigorous academic concepts are coupled with real-world lessons as students apply science, technology, engineering and mathematics in contexts that make connections between school, community, work and the ability to compete in the new economy.”
Universally, this field of study is recognized as a male-driven profession that completely ignores the women who thrive in it. The purpose of this conference was to recognize the achievement of well-established women of color (WOC) in the STEM field.
This conference offered a networking and professional development event, uniting WOC from all over the nation. The conference held collaborative seminars and experience-sharing sessions and hosted a formal recognition gala honoring extraordinary accomplishment of WOC who have excelled in STEM.
Knowing that we defeated all the stereotypes of what society expected us to be as Black women. A lady I met at the conference has been an engineer for more than 30 years, paving the way for present WOC engineers at NASA. She laughed and quoted “I am no longer a hidden figure.” This was an empowering moment for me because in the movie Hidden Figures, WOC physically, mentally and emotionally battled against the discrimination that was thrown at them every day.
Today we still endure this same cycle of discrimination and oppression.
I found this conference refreshing because it positively fed into my intersecting identities of being a Black woman and a Black woman in the STEM field. This conference cultivated these identities that I have into becoming fruitful in the future.
So why aren’t we celebrated?
As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has taught us, “We live in a society where we teach our girls to see each other as competitors, not for jobs and accomplishment, which I think can be a good thing, but for the attention of men.”
This conference teaches us, Black women, how not to feed into these societal norms but to go against it by celebrating each other in love and sisterhood. In one of our small groups, we discussed what it means to be a Black woman working in the corporate world. We shared experiences of how we have to navigate code switching, being afraid of how co-workers would perceive us if we come in with different hairstyles and having to filter some of our identities in order to “fit in.” We had in-depth conversations on different ways to navigate sexism in the work place, and we encouraged each other to speak up for ourselves.
The only way to be heard is to speak. As simple as this may seem, it is very difficult for women because we have been taught to be submissive and silent for the majority of our lives. The WOCSTEM reminded us that we are powerful beings, and we are valued and appreciated in every aspect of ourselves. I see power, therefore I am power.
Enlara Ndum is a senior health services administration major and guest writer for the Newswire from Bamenda, Cameroon.