Doris Myers is the Founder and Executive Director of Liberians Encouraging Students in Science and Technology, LESSAT. Established in 2013, LESSAT is a not-for-profit organization that aims to address and find solutions to some of Africa’s most important challenges, which prepare the next generation of scientist, technician and innovators for careers in Science, Technology and Innovation fields across Africa especially Liberia. The overarching goal is to develop a comprehensive learning process that integrates a strong professional development program for teachers, as well as student enrichment activities that involves training, mentoring, presentations at science workshops and conferences, participation in science and engineering fairs, etc. She previously served as an architectural drafting teacher at the George Weah Vocational Training Center and the Sustainable Development Initiative (SUDA). She has more than 10 years of experience in development, research and local community organization. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor in Civil Engineering at the Stella Maris Polytechnic in Liberia. She holds a diploma in Architectural Drafting from the Booker Washing Institute, BWI Liberia. As a STEM ambassador, she has inspired many female students to consider careers in STEM.
Why did you get into STEM?
I serve as Consultant Site Supervisor at FINDA’s Architectural and Consultant company where I was the only female supervisor and I knew it wasn’t right. I saw that men were highly favored. When I moved around our local community, I saw a growing trend of young women leaders, motivators and radical thinkers. These women longed for an inclusive community and yearned for the opportunity to develop their potential. LESSAT was born out of this realization. LESSAT started with an event launch that was followed by a three-day STEM Innovation Summit organized to entice students to pursue careers in the STEM field. We also created novel ways to help students in the communities identify their innate tendencies and true potential. The program has grown incredibly, which I feel is a testament to how much it was needed in the Liberian community. In the initial stages, I worked on LESSAT in my free time while I held a variety of other positions at startups. LESSAT has been self-funded for nearly 5 years. When I became its full time Executive Director, I quit other activities in order to dedicate my undivided attention to the organization.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I would like to mention to you that I have excelled in my community development projects. From 2014 -2017 the organisation developed a STEM INNOVATION Program that reached 200 people per year. This can be broken down into 100 high school students, 50 teachers and college students. 73% of high school students reported knowing what STEM stands for as compared to only 32% on the survey. Ninety-six (96%) of high school students expressed interest in attending college after graduation and 88% of the college students said they are internally motivated to continue their studies in STEM.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in STEM and how did you overcome them?
The challenges of running LESSAT are similar to the challenges any startup faces: lack of time and resources. It’s a very challenging balance – how do I grow LESSAT while still adhering to a budget and nurturing our existing programs and community? I am learning as I go, and I am so grateful for our amazing volunteers, administrative assistants and incredible Board of Advisors. Overall, the shortage of professionals in STEM is a global issue. The number of women in STEM has been of particular concern as women are still grossly underrepresented, with the percentage of women graduates in STEM still below 20% in many countries especially Liberia, and the number of women in the sector being much lower. Inspiring students to be STEM-focused teaches students how to think critically and how to solve real-life problems – skills they can use throughout life to help them get through tough times and take advantage of opportunities whenever they appear. STEM Innovation is a way to a new Liberia.
What is your advice to budding women in STEM?
I would tell women to take charge of their education. Join a peer support group to meet with other women in STEM. Find a mentor, someone who will give you guidance and advice. Be confident; don’t be afraid to be assertive. Strategize for the future. Enjoy yourself. The secret to a successful career in STEM is to find something you are good at and like doing. Take your time in college, explore and find what suits you. You are genetically capable of studying subjects in STEM as well as your male counterparts.
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