Search

Cynthia Chapple - Black American

The Founder of Black Girls Do STEM



Cynthia is an innovative scientist turned social entrepreneur, an advocate for black girls and women, and a champion of equity. In keeping with this work, she is the founder of Black Girls Do STEM, an organisation offering exploration of STEM career pathways through a hands-on engaging curriculum in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to middle and high school black girls, to expose them to career pathways and empower them to become STEM professionals. In all her business ventures she considers herself the Chief Black Girl Doing STEM.


Challenge

At Black Girls Do STEM, they aim to change the face of the STEM industry.


She said, "My purpose in creating Black Girls Do STEM is to change the face of the STEM industry. As both black and a woman, I have felt culturally isolated in STEM workplaces. I can say I often walk into spaces as either the only black woman or the only minority." By envisioning a new normal where black women have equitable representation in the STEM workforce, we make space for and affirm that there is value in what black women and girls will inevitably create.


Solution

“Black Girls Do STEM considers ourselves an educational equity-focused organisation, placing equity at the centre of what we do. We transfer STEM education to curate culturally safe, expansive and resilient spaces for black girls to learn and heal while decolonising STEM. By focusing on parent and student advocacy, we hope to make STEM commonplace and widely accepted as something that is as much a part of the black experience in America as anything else. This requires that we acknowledge poor educational options being offered to black and brown youth and advocate against them and for better educational access, even as we conduct our programme. We don’t simply teach STEM, we transform what black girls think, see and believe of themselves, their communities, their schools, and their capacity to be innovators and change the world.”


Impact

They are providing black girls of middle school and high school age with the opportunity to build skills, confidence, and the future STEM workforce.


WiredUp had a Q & A interview session with Cynthia Chapple, the Founder of Black Girls Do STEM


Tell me more about yourself – who is Cynthia Chapple; what is your background?

Hi, I’m Cynthia Chapple, last name pronounced ch-“apple”. I grew up on the south side of Chicago, as 1 of 8 children. Chocolate is my favorite thing to eat – all the time, for no reason at all.


I attended Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis for my undergraduate degrees in Forensic and Investigative Science and Chemistry. I subsequently returned to school and received a Master of Science in Chemistry in 2015. I worked for a state crime lab and also very different industries, such as my most recent employer in the manufacturing industry and in the electrical coatings market as a Senior Research and Development Chemist. In 2015 I launched Black Girls Do STEM, an online social awareness initiative centring the accomplishments of black women in STEM and calling for visibility on the issue of underrepresentation of this same demographic in the STEM workforce. In 2018 I began doing STEM workshops in communities with black girls. Unbeknownst to me, it was needed, and people were more than interested in supporting. Therefore, Black Girls Do STEM became a 501c3 incorporated non-profit organisation in March of 2019, offering a full range STEM programming for 6th to 9th-grade black girls and a back-end support pathway for 9th to 12th graders. Most recently, in 2020, I launched a full-scale beauty brand, Black Velvet Spa, a luxury spa brand that is sure to relax, excite and leave you with velvety smooth skin, as a long-term strategy for the sustainability of Black Girls Do STEM. My ideas around gender and racial equity are deeply personal and pulled from my own experiences as a black woman throughout my educational and professional pursuits in STEM.


Give us an example of how you practically share your passion for the STEM field?

Black Girls Do STEM consider ourselves an educational equity-focused organisation, placing equity at the centre of what we do. We transfer STEM education to curate culturally safe, expansive, and resilient spaces for black girls to learn and heal, while decolonising STEM. By focusing on parent and student advocacy, we hope to make STEM commonplace and widely accepted as something that is as much a part of the black experience in America as anything else. This requires that we acknowledge poor educational options being offered to black and brown youth and advocate against them and for better educational access, even as we conduct our programme. We don’t simply teach STEM, we transform what black girls think, see and believe of themselves, their communities, their schools, and their capacity to be innovators and change the world. The practical application of exploring STEM – whether it be our fashion technology workshop or our cosmetic chemistry workshop – we have been able to show girls how STEM can be incorporated into very real aspects of their everyday lives. Also, by sharing my personal experiences and stories within STEM educationally and professionally I can help share the joy of curiosity and the belief that if I can create the world around me, so can they.


You are an innovative scientist and advocate for black girls and women, and the founder of Black Girls Do STEM, who is passionate about STEM – what challenges have you faced?

Introduction: “Cynthia is an innovative scientist turned social entrepreneur, an advocate for black girls and women, and a champion of equity. In keeping with this work, she is the founder of Black Girls Do STEM, an organisation offering exploration of STEM career pathways through a hands-on engaging curriculum in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to middle and high school black girls, to expose them to career pathways and empower them to become STEM professionals. In all her business ventures she considers herself the Chief Black Girl Doing STEM. “


The challenges I have faced have been around access to STEM programmes as a young black girl growing up on the south side of Chicago, or as an undergraduate student working several jobs while going to school, juggling class and work, or the graduate student, tutoring to make ends meet all the way to the professional who continuously felt isolated and singled out in a space void of other minorities and often other women. The work of Black Girls Do STEM came about as a reflection of all of these challenges, for me deciding I could provide what I needed at multiple stages of the journey to make it somewhat more commonplace or simpler for black girls coming behind me.


How have you overcome, or are working to overcome, some of these challenges?

The work of Black Girls Do STEM is transformative, deeply reflective, and centres the stories of and experiences of black women and girls. The challenges are overcome by simply having a space like Black Girls Do STEM existing.


What advice would you give to young people who are interested in the STEM field?

You are it, enough, in fact, more than enough. That even as you acknowledge your limitations and your access pain points, don’t allow material conditions and circumstances outside of your control to have you doubt your value and ability to contribute, to always remember they have something special to offer to the world, even if they aren’t sure what that is yet.


80 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All