Moulding nation builders w/ Nailah Ruddock
How do you #BreaktheBias?
I #BreaktheBias by showing up as my whole self in all that I do.
Nailah Ruddock is a Stanford-trained chemical engineer who is passionate about building a thriving STEM ecosystem in Jamaica and the broader Caribbean region. Having deep roots in the biotechnology industry, she has seen first-hand and firmly believes in the transformative power of STEM. As such, she has taken it upon herself to start LMDN STEM Academy, where she is actively training the next generation of nation builders and global shapers, who will transform our world through STEM.
What industry are you a part of and would you say it is women inclusive?
LMDN STEM Academy sits at the intersection of the STEM industry as well as the EdTech space. Traditionally, STEM has been a male-dominated area of study, and by extension, the career that arose from STEM education would then also be male-dominated. There has been a significant change over time, but we do have a far way to go.
What inspired you to start LMDN STEM Academy?
I did my engineering studies in the US and started off my career working in the biotechnology industry in Silicon Valley. Through it all, I’ve always seen myself playing a role in building a thriving STEM ecosystem in Jamaica and the Caribbean at large. Our rich biodiversity as a country & a region makes us ripe for myriad areas of innovation. However, we first need to train our people so that they will be technically competent enough to make such contributions. And so, LMDN STEM Academy was born!
What action, if any, is needed to level the playing field in your industry?
I think that we need to spotlight women who are indeed changemakers in the space & are really moving the needle in STEM as a whole. There also needs to be a greater emphasis placed on STEM in Jamaica & the Caribbean region at large. In so doing, we as women in STEM will then afford the opportunity to share with others the importance of having women in STEM. I firmly believe that this will go a long way in levelling the playing field.
We need inclusive solutions to the current global challenges, and by excluding women from these spaces, we do humanity a great disservice.
How do you #BreaktheBias?
I #BreaktheBias by showing up as my whole self in all that I do. I am never trying to be anyone but myself. Whether that is in the classroom teaching students, or in the field on my engineering job. Additionally, I strive to always maintain a very high standard of excellence in all that I do, so that there will never be any doubt whatsoever as to whether or not I belong in my industry.
How can one show support for women?
One can show support for women by actively promoting them on your platforms to really shine a light on the important work that they are doing. I also believe that as women trying to break into traditionally male-dominated industries, there should be specific funds that are designated for those sorts of developmental activities. We all stand to benefit from giving women a seat at the table in STEM EdTech & STEM more broadly.
How can we help forge a gender-equal world?
Forging a gender-equal world starts with each and every one of us taking stock of the unconscious biases around women that permeate our psyche. Then work daily to dismantle those on a personal level by calling out those same biases when we see them at play in our friends, family and associates. Only then can we start to press towards making the requisite institutional changes to create a gender-equal world.
What are some gender biases – both conscious and unconscious – that you would say are engrained in Jamaican society & culture?
Though we have made significant improvements as a society, I still believe that we have ways to go. Women are still largely seen as fit for careers that tap into their natural abilities as nurturers (teaching being one of them), but we are capable of so much more. Women can be mechanical engineers, civil engineers, chemical engineers & scientific researchers. We too can be charged with making tough decisions concerning scientific problems that can transform life as we know it.
Another bias is that women are incapable of balancing family life and work life. That the time that they’ll need to spend on their kids would greatly detract from them being competent at their jobs. That is simply false and really forces us to then think of why is it that this would be perceived as such in the first place. This kind of thinking is built on the gender bias that women, and women alone, are in charge of the home, which is thinking that we’ll need to correct in order to truly attain gender equality.
What’s your advice to any woman that is interested in tapping into your industry?
Go for it. Step out boldly knowing that you too belong. That you are called to do transformative work in this industry, and that with your unique contributions, you will indeed be changing our world for posterity.
How easy would you say is it to break into this industry as a woman?
It is certainly not easy. But with a clear sense of purpose, a healthy dose of confidence and the right allies, nothing is impossible.
To find out more about LMDN STEM Academy, follow them on Instagram @lmdnstemacademy.