Former pageant queen Sarah Adewumi reminds young girls that they can be multifaceted while pursuing STEM careers.
As a child, Adewumi was taught that pursuing the field didn’t mean she had to put her passions on hold. During childhood, her father, who was once a computer engineer, reinforced this message. While developing her interests in biology, meteorology, and geology, and before stumbling into aviation in high school, she also made room for hobbies such as fashion and pageantry.
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“One person that really inspired me was my father. He definitely encouraged me and my sisters and all of my siblings to do whatever we wanted in STEM,” Adewumi told AfroTech in an interview. “So, that really ignited something within me that I can do whatever I want no matter if I have other interests in fashion, style, and pageantry. That’s what made me continue going. Along the way, as I started to do internships and get involved in the industry, I started to see that there are so many amazing people doing great things, especially women in the industry.”
Adewumi currently works at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a science communicator, a position she was able to secure following an internship during her college years.
Although she gives credit to those who forged a path before her and provided her mentorship, Adewumi still recognizes there is more work to be done for the next generation of change makers.
During her Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM) internship in college, she was just one of three girls in her class of less than 10.
“That really made me realize that women are still super underrepresented. They’re not coming into these industries, and I wanted to figure out why and what I could do to help,” she explained.
NextGen in STEM
To bridge the gap, Adewumi created NextGen in STEM to support women of color and the next change makers.
According to information provided to AfroTech, the nonprofit works with leadership-focused organizations across the globe to uplift women and uphold their mission to create increased diversity and inclusion in STEM. To date, her efforts have reached four continents.
“Our mission is really to impact and empower and inspire the next generation of young people that want to pursue careers or studies in STEM,” Adewumi told AfroTech. “We are focused on leadership development, and I think that no matter what age you are that can be developed, and it will really instill confidence in young girls and boys that are interested in pursuing these careers.”
While ensuring STEM education is more accessible, she also wants to ensure the next generation does not feel restricted in their educational pursuits. Adewumi leads by example through her nonprofit and work at NASA.
She also creates STEM-based episodes for VPM and PBS and has received honors such as recognition from the Universal Women’s Network as a Woman of Inspiration all while continuing to explore her interest in fashion.
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“These are things that are not typical or not broadcast as much among women in the STEM industry,” Adewumi said. “So, that’s one thing that I’ve really tried to focus on is to show girls that you don’t have to sacrifice your femininity or look a certain type of way. You can embrace your true self. For me, that’s through fashion. I’ve been able to combine my passion for STEM and style and still be super impactful in the industry.”