Powerful pages filled with female perseverance

Monday, March 8, 2021

Waterloo alumnus is amplifying the diverse voices of women in STEM for young girls through new book

Aaiman AmirThis International Women’s Day, we caught up with GreenHouse alumnus Aaiman Aamir (ENBUS ’19), who has spent nearly three years working on her passion project to amplify the untold stories of women working in STEM to create relatable, inspiring role models for young girls across the country. 

Today, Aamir launches her first book titled “Our Stories in STEM,” a project filled with the stories of 40 diverse Canadian women working in STEM fields. Targeted at girls aged eight to 12, the book utilizes 40 illustrations by Canadian female artists. Aamir wanted to ensure a diverse group of women were highlighted in the project, so she focused on individuals with diversity in ethnicity, career pathways, educational backgrounds and even those who would not be considered as neurotypical.

“If you can’t see something, you can’t be it,” says Aamir. “When you’re a kid, what you want to be is so dependent on what you see around you through books, cartoons, friends and family. 

“Storytelling is so important because it gives children the ability to see their potential in the lived experiences of people who look like them.” 

Aamir started this project when she was living at St. Paul’s for the last term of her studies in the Environment and Business Co-op program at Waterloo, participating in GreenHouse’s Social Innovators in Training program. She hoped the program would help her gain a better understanding of what she wanted to do after graduating. 

Throughout her co-op terms, she’s worked for various technology companies, supporting programs that focused on integrating women into technological fields, such as Girls Who Code, but she noticed most of these programs had little diversity in its participants. Almost exclusively, the young girls who attended were not from ethnically diverse backgrounds, came from middle to high-income families, and had the resources to access such opportunities.

At GreenHouse, she dug deeper into the research surrounding this issue and felt determined to make a difference in solving a problem she deeply cared about. Upon several discussions with her mentors and peers, she determined her unique skillset as a storyteller, an illustrator and a woman of colour positioned her well to make a children’s book for maximum impact. 

Most of the literature on Women in STEM was dated, focusing on the pioneers in the field rather than everyday role models and had a significantly low representation of women of colour. This makes it difficult for young girls to see themselves and give them something to aspire to in the future.

Kids reading our stories in STEM

It was important for Aamir to highlight the stories of women who were not particularly well known in the community, and who represented the everyday woman working in STEM. These women also share very non-linear pathways to success, making mistakes along the way and overcoming challenges people experience every day but don’t talk about. 

To make the most impact, Aamir has decided to self-publish the book in effort to partner and give back as much as possible to the organizations that support girls in STEM. The Jean Augustine Centre for Young Women’s Empowerment is the first of these partnerships. It will receive all of the profits from book sales for the first few months of 2021, to support the development of resources for these young girls, with plans to partner with a different organization for the latter half of the year.  

“Being a part of GreenHouse has given me more confidence in myself and my ideas,” says Aamir. “I never pictured myself as an entrepreneur or a public speaker, but it’s allowed me to become the best version of myself.” 

While working a full-time job at Microsoft and pursuing a passion project on the side is not exactly something she ever imagined doing after graduation, the pairing has led her to build a strong passion for storytelling and advocacy. Aamir plans on continuing to expand her storytelling in a second book within the series with an environmental focus, which she hopes to start in 2022.

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