SiSTEM, in their own words

By Abigail Otchere

From its inception, the SiSTEM tagline has been ‘two sisters, one dream’.

The sisters: Donna and Dr Abigail Otchere. The dream: to connect women in science and to increase the retention of women in the STEM field. 

Through our non-profit organisation SiSTEM, we drew on our personal experiences of being women in STEM to inspire the next generation to pursue STEM careers, provide resources for them to succeed and educate on the diverse range of STEM roles. At SISTEM, we are particularly passionate about black women and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, aiming to see an increase in STEM participation and higher representation at senior level. 

We launched SiSTEM in 2022 as a community, based on our real-life sisterhood – we would not have completed our STEM degrees or broke into our careers without our personal sisterly support. We were always a phone call away for each other, ready to be a listening ear and a cheerleader. That same sisterly support is what we offer to other women and girls through our initiative.  We also provide our community with resources using social media , producing engaging science content, interviewing women in STEM and featuring their journeys via Instagram in order to put black women on a platform. 

Join the SiSTEM community today

One of SiSTEM’s ethos is to create a safe for women in STEM at every stage. We do this in order for individuals to form networks and friendships. Here is a photograph of the growing community that SiSTEM has captured.

What began as a small online community has grown into a network of women in STEM. We now host both social and career focused events targeted at women and aimed to encourage networking in a relaxed environment. One of these notable events, a Brunch of SiSTEMs held in August 2023 was a brunch for students, graduates and work professionals. This event welcomed 50 women in STEM who were given the opportunity to increase their networks, hear from a panel of inspirational women in STEM and feel celebrated. Many of the guests had never attended a networking event but gave positive feedback about building friendships and feeling like they belonged to a community. 

We know first hand how it feels to be a minority in the STEM field, specifically in the male dominated mechanical engineering sector (Donna – left) and as a black woman in the biomedical field & academia (Abigail – right).

We’re working with In2careers to create a series of STEM workshops for secondary school pupils.

On engaging with our network we came to the realisation , the gender and diversity gap within STEM starts very early. If we want to close these gaps we have to start early. This means working with  schools, providing stem positive role models at a very early age. We visit schools to share our stories, particularly how we overcame challenges to be where we are today (Donna, a mechanical engineering graduate and current PhD student; Abigail, a biomedical science PhD holder and a medical writer). We also work with students to increase their confidence and show that confidence can be learnt. This is in hope that students gain confidence to apply for STEM courses and pursue their dreams. 

Introducing Gifty,
Part of our incredible In2careers community

This year, we have partnered with In2careers to create a series of STEM workshops for secondary school pupils. We’re pleased to introduce an In2scienceUK alum, Gifty, talking about her excitement to be part of this SiSTEM visit to a local school in London. Currently piloting in Lambeth schools, we train In2science alumni to run workshops aimed to debunk STEM misconceptions, introducing pupils to a wide range of careers and inspiring them with our own unique personal journeys into STEM. This gives the alumni valuable experience of leading a class and an opportunity to give back.

We want to empower our alumni from In2scienceUK to spearhead workshops, challenging STEM stereotypes and spark discussions with young minds. Through engaging sessions, we showcase the diverse array of career possibilities within STEM fields, drawing from our own remarkable journeys.

Meet Sandra,
An inspiring voice at SiSTEM

Sandra is an integral part of SiSTEM, and you can see her enthusiasm as she invites you into a classroom at a local school in bustling London. In the video below, you may recognise a few faces on the whiteboard. This is part of the icebreaker, where we ask students to ‘guess that CEO’ and discover the diversity at CEO level with some of the largest STEM organisations.

“We’re not just teaching science; we’re shaping futures,” Sandra declares as her passion is evident in every word.

At SiSTEM, we are tackling the gender and diversity gap within STEM one person at a time. We are supporting women and girls throughout their STEM journey: from primary school to working professionals. If we can inspire the next generation. If we can provide a sisterhood for a woman who is struggling as a result of being a minority on their team. If we can work with companies to provide more inclusive workplace to celebrate female talent. Then by doing this we are not only giving back and paying it forward to others but fulfilling our dream: two sisters, one dream. 

Co-founder of SiSTEM

It can feel isolating at times and girls can often feel like they don’t belong because they do not see others like them. We therefore hope that our events can continue to facilitate conversations, help forge connections and friendships and give women and girls the confidence to aim high. We also collaborate with organisations to provide industry-specific resources and events- such as our NEXT STEP webinar with the British neuroscience association (a introduction to the science administration sector) and a career webinar in collaboration with Colorintech, a nonprofit increasing awareness and access for minorities in the tech industry. 

We’re grateful for the support we have received working with In2careers, where brilliant people like Danielle Knight and Ciara Byrne have stood beside us. If you’re part of the In2careers community, don’t hesitate to reach out to us, and find out more about supporting SiSTEM.

A word from Danielle,
Driving force behind In2careers

In2careers is one year old, and SiSTEM generously supported In2careers from its inception. Working with Abigail and Donna is incredibly inspiring and rewarding. The insights and knowledge they share with In2careers alumni is valuable. The SiSTEM/In2careers outreach pilot has made a tangible difference to students in the Lambeth School Partnership.”

Eager to jump into SiSTEM?

SiSTEM is committed to collaborating with organisations and individuals passionate about advancing our mission by connecting women in science, enhancing retention in STEM, constantly seeking innovative ways to amplify our message, and the exceptional SiSTEM team is always enthusiastic about working together. Get in touch with SiSTEM below.