Women of Distinction 2018 Spotlight: Aisha Bowe
Get to Know the 2018 NCCWSL Women of Distinction
Name: Aisha Bowe
Occupation: Co-founder and CEO, STEMBoard
Education: Bachelor of Science, Engineering, University of Michigan
If you haven’t yet heard of STEMBoard, a D.C.-based, minority-owned technology company that works with both the private sector and the government, you should. More importantly, you should know the CEO and cofounder of STEMBoard, Aisha Bowe. Bowe is one of a small number of women — and an even smaller number of black women — who are at the helm of a technology company. Today, she uses her talents to advocate for the underserved and underrepresented around the globe.
Long before she began her professional career, Bowe says she was a below-average high school student. But after acing a community college math course — which she took only after some persuasion from her father — Bowe realized her talent and passion for math and science, earning both a B.S.E. in aerospace engineering and a M.Eng. in space systems engineering from the University of Michigan (UM). Through a connection from an engineering professor at UM, she met the director of engineering at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and within a year became a rising star at NASA herself. During her six years there Bowe received NASA’s Equal Employment Opportunity Medal — one of NASA’s highest honors, given to champions of diversity and inclusion programs — for her work as an advocate for women and people of color.
In 2013 her ambition led Bowe and her cofounder John Martellaro to the Silicon Valley to pitch their idea for a technology company and secure funding, but they received an overwhelmingly negative reception from potential investors. Their cold shoulders — now considered a blessing in disguise — didn’t stop Bowe and her cofounder from starting STEMBoard on their own. Today Bowe is the majority owner of her company and is responsible for a multimillion-dollar portfolio of contracts. As a successful black woman CEO working in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, Bowe is a standout in many ways: black women account for just 2 percent of executives in the private sector, and make up 1 percent of the engineering workforce and 3 percent of the computing workforce, according to AAUW research.
The historical underrepresentation of and lack of opportunity afforded to certain populations, such as women of color, has fueled Bowe’s vision for STEMBoard. In an interview for her alma mater, the University of Michigan, Bowe says, “The idea was to have a technically proficient engineering company that also cared about social impact. We really do our best to combine our technical proficiency with our desire to elevate the emerging workforce and the historically underrepresented by teaching them tech skills.” STEMBoard’s demonstration-based curricula is offered to students in grades K–12, which for middle school girls — who see a participation drop in STEM fields during these years — could make a lifelong impact. Much of Bowe’s work involves teaching students to use hardware designed specifically for them so that they can tackle everyday problems and begin building their careers.
As STEMBoard’s business interests continues to grow, Bowe is focused on creating a global platform for her educational programs. One of these programs is Hack<IT>, a free STEM camp for high school students, based in Nassau, Bahamas. Hack<IT> gives students hands-on instruction in the fundamentals of computer science and electrical engineering. Students develop novel technology solutions to real-life issues in their community and then present their projects to a panel of judges to compete for funding to bring their designs to life. Bowe has empowered and inspired many students to follow their dreams, pursue careers, and learn new skills. At NCCWSL she’ll do the same for you.