By Annie Rosemurgy | Photography by Hillary Schave
In 2015 Winnie Karanja founded Maydm, a Madison-based nonprofit aimed at bringing girls and students of color into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs. “The local tech market was booming, and we were being approached by schools who served disadvantaged, vulnerable populations who said that they couldn’t afford to teach STEM,” says Calley Mannion, a grant writer for the organization.
Maydm offers a number of ways for girls to get comfortable flexing their STEM muscles, including after-school programs, internships and immersive summer camp experiences. The programs each have a specific focus, such as website development, robotics or cybersecurity.
“We talk a little and then we do a little, and we build competency in a safe and secure environment,” says new executive director Dr. Christina Outlay. Students come away from Maydm camps with knowledge, experience and a portfolio.
Mentorship is a central value at Maydm. The organization’s mentorship program matches girls with local technology professionals of diverse backgrounds. Site and corporate visits reinforce the idea that STEM jobs are for everyone.
“Representation is critical. It can be intimidating to walk into a classroom where nobody looks like you,” says Outlay. “[But] when a girl comes to a Maydm camp, they are going to be greeted warmly by someone who looks like them, and that is where we start.”
As Outlay takes the helm at Maydm, her top priority is educating girls that STEM skills translate to real-world employment opportunities. “IT fluency is becoming a non-negotiable skill for many jobs. We have so much local talent and brainpower, and I want to see that talent stay local and grow this community,” Outlay says.