Missed the first post? Here’s a link to read it: https://www.accomplishedafricanwomen.org/post/breakthebias-spotlight-ndane-ndazhaga
Continuing the theme for #IWD2022, which is #BreakTheBias, we caught up with fellow Mercy Asamoah. Mercy has worn several hats in the Yaa W. Community and she is currently one of our CYST Fellows and a software engineer extraordinaire.
Mercy is an MSc. Electrical and Software Engineering student at McGill University. She is also our Platform Developer and the Team Lead for the Platform Team here at Yaa W. As you might imagine, she has faced several challenges being a Black woman in tech, and in higher education. As we learn more about calling out and standing against stereotypes and microaggressions, we’re pleased to share Mercy’s story. Every day she continues to excel, she breaks the bias a little more and inspires other Black women to follow her example.
Keep reading to learn more about Mercy and her journey as she continues to #BreakTheBias.
Why did you decide to pursue a Master’s degree? What were some of the factors that influenced you?
I did my bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering but, by the time I graduated, I felt it wasn’t enough. I always envisioned myself being in a position where I can effect global change and impact, so I decided to pursue that feeling.
My BSc. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering gave me the knowledge I needed for the “hardware” aspect of engineering. However, I always had a desire to be an Automation Engineer and be at the vanguard to help build products that can make the world a relatively better place to live in. So I decided to pursue my masters in Software Engineering; then afterwards combine my knowledge of both software and hardware in conjunction with Artificial intelligence (as that’s the future) and make my vision become a reality.
The second factor that influenced my decision was that in order to effect the change I wanted to see, I had to position myself in an environment that would provide me with all the necessary resources and knowledge I needed. I knew that Ghana wasn’t that ideal environment. So, after thorough research, I decided to move to Canada to pursue my degree.
What are some of the ways you think we can #BreakTheBias as young Black women?
An organization such as Yaa W. is one place I strongly believe can help break the bias.
I mean, a place where young Black women can grow, be mentored, and receive all the necessary skills and knowledge to make it in STEM is an approved plus for me. Growing up, I didn’t have access to such resources. In fact, when I decided to become an engineer, it was a pretty bold and nerve-racking decision. Fortunately, my dad is also an engineer and my role model, so I look up to him for most parts of the journey. However, I didn’t have a female role model who has already made it in this male-dominated field to closely look up to, talk to or just receive some advice.
After joining Yaa W., I've had the opportunity to meet some women in the industry and the advice they’ve given would have helped me tremendously growing up. However, I am excited to be in a position where I can help other young, up-and-coming female engineers gain the resources that I didn’t have access to.
We need to encourage more females into STEM and break the chain of fear and intimidation that STEM is difficult and a man’s field only.
I mean, I’ve made it in the field and I know there are many young women like myself who just need a starting push… and then they’re good to go.
How do you overcome microaggressions and biases that occur towards you because you’re a Black woman?
To be honest, it was a bit difficult at first. I’ve had a lot of people question me for wanting to become an engineer. I’ve been in situations where people think I’m going to fail, situations where they think I am just not good enough to be in STEM. I particularly remember there were times on campus that I had people walk all over me, look down on me, or simply exclude me from partaking in projects or discussions. Now, I don’t know if it was racism or intimidation, but at that moment it wasn’t the best feeling.
During those times, I felt as though I wasn’t enough. I began to question and doubt myself. There was even a period of time I remember I questioned my decision to even pursue a master’s degree. But I found solace in God first of all. It was just easier to fall on God. So, when times like those came, I referred to my Bible and affirmed what God had said over my life. With time, it got better. Even when there’s so much hate around me, I affirm to myself that God brought me here for a reason, so screw everyone and their hate (pardon my language, haha!). I am a child of God and success and excellence is my portion.
The second thing I’ll say is self-love, as Dr. Tiffany Bowden spoke about it so well during the Launch Your Career Conference. When I adopted the habit and lifestyle of self-love, life felt so much better because I knew myself, I loved myself, and things just stopped getting to me.
The final thing I’d say is talking with other Black women in STEM about my experiences, hearing their stories, and also learning a thing or two from them. Basically, just being in that space where some people understand what you go through and can relate with you on that level.
Women have only 30% representation in STEM careers and Black women have even less, that is why various communities have been pushing and hoping to get more women in STEM. Yielding Accomplished African Women is relentless in empowering Black college women to reach their full potential by providing them with the resources and opportunities to do so. We are building the largest talent pipeline of black women in STEM. Would you like to support more black college women in STEM like Mercy?
Click on the link below to join us.