Maydm was founded in 2015 to provide STEM programming for traditionally underrepresented populations. The Madison-based organization has provided girls and youth of color in grades 6-12, with skill-based training for the technology sector. Maydm is changing the way STEM skills are taught to children who don’t always have the access to STEM skills that lead to real-world employment opportunities.
Executive Director, Dr. Christina Outlay and Grant Writer, Calley Mannion dive into how Maydm encourages more diversity in STEM and how companies can change how they approach representation and inclusivity.
How does Maydm encourage more diversity in STEM?
Calley Mannion: Maydm primarily works with female identifying and underrepresented youth of color in our programs. We partner with schools, community centers, and other nonprofit organizations to reach students who are historically and persistently underrepresented in STEM fields. Through our holistic approach, Maydm breaks down barriers to access from multiple sources.
We host immersive programs on college campuses allowing students to become familiar with and comfortable in higher education spaces. We also encourage project based learning of tech and engineering concepts so young innovators have the chance to build their own STEM projects and feel ownership throughout the process.
Finally we work alongside local and national companies for students to learn more about careers, tour companies, and even begin paid internships. With the skills, connections, confidence, and experience these students gain, Maydm is preparing a diverse workforce to change the face of STEM.
Women and POC are vastly underrepresented in the STEM workforce. What industries or areas do you see that are on the rise?
Dr. Christina Outlay and Calley Mannion: Maydm’s specific focus is within technology and engineering. In some biological science fields, nursing for example, women are very well represented. Within technology and engineering, the disparities are largest. All women of any color are underrepresented, and then you have people of color who are also underrepresented, especially Black, Latino, Native American, (and) what's specifically relevant for us in this area is Hmong and other Southeast Asians.
Technology and Engineering careers are constantly changing, with new innovations always on the rise, we need to ensure that diverse voices are being heard and included in their development
Our goal is to bring all of those underrepresented groups into STEM careers. That means teaching them about STEM, that means teaching them that careers in STEM are possible for them to achieve, and teaching them the benefits and income that you can earn in that career path. But, we don’t stop there. We also help students on the path toward those careers by teaching them skills and hosting fun activities that build awareness.
What challenges have you seen or faced while pursuing your career in these industries and what would you like to see changed?
Dr. Christina Outlay: Throughout my career, I’ve sometimes been part of a workplace culture that is not inclusive, one where I am often the only minority in the room. It leads to a sense of isolation. There aren’t many women in tech spaces, let alone Black women, and I would experience microaggressions from co-workers because of my otherness.
Beyond myself, I see products that only suit a limited marketplace because their development teams are not diverse enough. They don’t represent the people their products serve. For example, the game design world often leans on a deeply misogynistic portrayal of women.
I’d like to see a change in companies' approaches to representation. That requires a REAL effort to change the status quo by cultivating and hiring a more diverse workforce, including supporting orgs like ours that are working on rising up the future STEM workforce.
Are there other organizations or persons that have been inspiring to work with (in STEM programming)?
Calley Mannion: Maydm works very closely with other organizations to put on programs and ensure students receive holistic support from the community. We work closely with Urban League, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Black Girl Magic and more. We always admire their commitment to creating great experiences for girls, underrepresented youth of color, and low income communities. We also have partnered with the wonderful people at Lighthouse Christian School and Badger Rock Middle School to teach part of their science curriculum. These schools are particularly admirable for the ways they create unique and meaningful opportunities for their students.
Maydm is accelerating opportunities for students in the Madison area and beyond. They rely on community partners to show what STEM fields look like. Programs and internships also include site visits to local tech companies to inspire students to get involved in programs and activities. To connect with young innovators visit https://maydm.org/get-involved