Vanguard STEM is a platform advocating diversity in STEM, founded by astrophysicist Dr. Jedidah Isler. As the first African American female to earn a PhD in astrophysics from Yale, she is a strong advocate for women in STEM. Dr. Jedidah Isler shared her knowledge through two compelling Ted Talks: one on her research in blazars and the other on the untapped genius of diverse people in STEM careers.
Currently, Vanguard STEM is expanding its reach in social media through Twitter and Instagram, where profiles of up-and-coming women in STEM are shared. Twitter chats and Google Hangouts are also used so influential women can communicate their own journey. To top it all off, visitors are encouraged to join the conversation at vanguardstem.com by reading blog articles on diversity and inclusion or even nominating a Woman Crush Wednesday in STEM (#WCWinSTEM).
In her own words, Dr. Jedidah Isler explains the vision of Vanguard STEM in a brief interview:
Please briefly describe your mission.
The vision of #VanguardSTEM is to cultivate an empowered community of women of color who are positioned to advocate for ourselves and our scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical identities and interests. We do this through our monthly web-series: Vanguard: Conversations with Women of Color in STEM, which features a rotating panel of women of color in STEM talking about issues that matter to us. In addition, we’ve begun growing our platform to include original pieces that are curated and created by women of color in STEM.
What inspires you about the up and coming professionals that you interact with?
For me personally, as the founder/host of #VanguardSTEM, I am most inspired by the paradigm-shifting perspective that many of us up-and-comers have that we can be scientists (engineers, mathematicians, technologists, and any combination thereof) on our own terms. Seeing a generation (or more) women of color come before us and make the way and then be allowed take up the mantle to create and maintain space that works for us is truly inspiring. This is to say nothing of the multidimensional, multi-modal, multi generational genius that is present in virtually every field on every imaginable line of scientific inquiry. Part of the reason we named our show #VanguardSTEM is because we believe women of color always have and always will be on the vanguard of discovery because we are always finding our way and new ways to move through and understand the world.
How have you been able to spread the word about your message?
Since #VanguardSTEM is a passion project with a small core team, we rely heavily on social media and word of mouth. We have a number of folks who have been with us from the beginning and we’re constantly growing our audience and our reach. One of the best compliments we’ve received so far is from a young, black queer woman who said that #VanguardSTEM is something she didn’t know she needed until she found it. We think it has that effect on many women of color in STEM and we want to continue to share this growing community with as many people as we can. While we center and highlight the experiences of women of color in STEM, all are welcome.
What is one piece of advice you have for women of color in STEM?
You do not have to sacrifice any part of who you are to be a scientist/technologist/engineer/mathematician. By virtue of bringing your full self to the table, you bring a different and valuable perspective to your work. We need that perspective these days. The easiest socio-technological problems have already been solved; the ones that remain, require looking at the problem differently and that comes from having a different –and equally valuable– lived experience. Do you, boo!