Diana Wilson attends the University of Virginia with a full scholarship from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, and has over a hundred thousand dollars in other scholarships from various organizations. Diana has an interdisciplinary major of Sociology and Women Gender Studies with the hopes of understanding the interconnection of business and its ability to have a greater social impact. As a first-generation Ghanaian American college student, Diana came to college to develop purpose and mastery. Simultaneously, she has worked hard to serve her community. She has completed prestigious programs with PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey, Google and JP Morgan Chase & Co. Through these internships, Diana has been able to hone her ability to complete indepth analysis, keep an innovative spirit, create strategic initiatives and have a high-level “big picture” approach for tackling issues. Due to Diana’s passion for understanding the global sphere, she has traveled to 11 countries within 4 different continents on a full scholarship. Her travels span from South Africa to France. These experiences have provided Diana with strong cross-cultural communication skills and a vigilance to understand the complexity of globalization. Lastly, she has never forgotten about the importance of lifting as she climbs. Diana won the McKinsey Woman’s Social Impact Award for her work with college students in Ghana regarding their civic engagement. Moreover, with all the racial tension and chaos surrounding her school’s campus in Charlottesville, Diana has worked on the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers project. This memorial will be constructed on the University of Virginia’s campus by 2019 and will serve as a reminder of the importance of all American citizens to this country’s progress. Beyond her leadership and community service, Diana has won the Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar Award, Davis Projects for Peace, Coca Cola Scholarship, and the Echol’s Scholar award. Diana created Yielding Accomplished African Women (Yaa W.), named after Yaa Asantewaa, which is Ghana’s first finance & technology talent accelerator for women. Our mission is to create a pipeline that will empower African women to develop a gender specific professional toolkit that will advance their careers in business or technology.
Why did you get into STEM?
I entered the STEM field because my father is a mathematician. I love math and I was always good at it. When I entered college, I chose an interdisciplinary major of Sociology and Women Gender Studies because it satisfied my interests in understanding the historical present. However, I still maintained my interests in STEM so I completed three internships in Finance. My experiences coupled with my educational training provided me with a strong intellectual preparation in critical thinking and analytical skills while exploring some of life’s most interesting questions. I am equipped with the intellectual discipline to make sound premises based on observed facts while operating under a social context.
What do you consider your greatest achievements?
My greatest achievement has been starting Yielding Accomplished African Women (Yaa W.) In my family’s village in Ghana, seeing small children caring for younger siblings was ordinary, and driving by other shantytowns with inadequate sanitation, nutrition, water, or health services was commonplace. When I lived in Ghana, I was encircled by poverty and these images of vulnerable people without economic security or power, were scarring yet empowering for me. My experiences in Ghana sparked my interests in problem-solving. Yet I was always confronted with the question, what to do next? How can young women envision a better future? My research led me to conclude that there is one main factor that is depriving the world of $28 trillion dollars in economy; the factor excludes 90% of this amount to be reinvested in health, nutrition, and education for families. This factor is economic empowerment for women. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, if women had the opportunity to participate in the economy equally as men, this could happen in just 7 years. As Kofi Annan, a Nobel Peace Prize Winner and native Ghanaian notably stated, “there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” I believe that Yaa W. will be a small ripple that will create a lasting change in the lives of college women in Ghana. I am happy to be on this journey to revolutionize the face of STEM.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
I have faced the challenge of stereotype threat. Stereotype threat is a situational dilemma where marginalized groups (women, minorities, etc.) are so apprehensive of conforming to negative stereotypes about their ability that they internalize the same negative stereotypes they were trying to oppose. It is really hard to do well, when you don’t believe that anyone believes you can do well. Specifically, as a Black woman, I was usually in White male dominated spaces. So not only did I have to disprove their pessimistic labels but I also had to find ways to encourage myself to maximize the potential I know I have in me. To do this, I created goals and time-bound objectives to monitor my progress. Also, I frequently sought out mentors or higher-level administrators/executives who believed in me.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
If you don’t dare, you don’t grow. Your race, gender, religion, etc. do not define your ability to be successful. But with hard work and grit, you can show yourself approved. Always reach for the stars because even if you fall, you will land on a clouds. When you reach your pinnacle, do not forget to help lift other women up.
Read more about Yaa. W here: http://accomplishedafricanwomen.org/
Follow Yaa W. here: https://www.facebook.com/AccomplishedAfricanWomen/