Madison non-profit wants to change the face of STEM

By: Marcus Aarsvold | Published March 19, 2022 at 6:26 CDT

STEM leaders say women of color are underrepresented in the field.

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Non-profit Maydm recently received a $300,000 equitable recovery grant from the Wisconsin Department of Administration to inspire young women of color to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Maydm stands for “made by them” and it is an organization that means to break down barriers that prevent young Black women and men from following their STEM dreams.

Fourth grader Gloria McKinney De Royston participated in the “Black Girl Magic Saturday” workshop to learn how technology works in the fashion industry. She has a lot of ideas to improve the STEM industry.

”I like to do a lot of digital art,” Gloria said. “One of my personal goals in life is fashion designing. Making clothes for everybody and then everybody wears them.”

Maydm Executive Director and IT Professor Dr. Christina Outlay worries young girls like Gloria could lose their passion because of the STEM industry’s lack of diversity.

”They lose interest,” Dr. Outlay said. “Either they don’t think technology or STEM fields are for them at all. Or they think they’re very hard or they don’t see representation and so it’s not something they’re motivated to pursue.”

She said Maydm hosted Saturday’s tech workshop to inspire young girls and in-turn, better the STEM business.

”Research shows that diverse teams are more productive,” Dr. Outlay said. “They typically produce a better product that can serve a broader audience and so there is a direct practical and financial incentive for companies to have more diverse teams.”

She said the benefit goes both ways.

”There is the opportunity to take an interest in fashion or art or other types of things and go into a technical field where jobs are abundant, career growth is amazing and salaries are amazing,” Dr. Outlay said.

She tries to expose students to STEM opportunities that encourage them to think creatively.

”I have so many ideas that I want to think of it’s just an explosion,” Gloria said. ”Do not shy away from it!”

Maydm hosts summer programming events where girls can grow their passions and dive deeper into video game design, cyber security, and data analysis.

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