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The She Word

Nyamekye is breaking ground for Black women in STEM

Nyamekye Nti is standing outside, holding tree branches with pink flowers. She is smiling at the camera and wearing a pink, off-the-shoulder top.

A self-described “marketer by day, women’s advocate by night,” Nyamekye Nti has built her career around storytelling for good. “I craft stories and narratives about Google products, and those skills help me craft stories to advocate for women,” she says.

When she’s not marketing Google Cloud products, Nyamekye is running Yielding Accomplished African Women (YaaW), a nonprofit dedicated to building the largest online career community of Black college women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Since its launch in 2018, YaaW has trained more than 1,000 women in 12 African countries and certified more than 750 African women through accelerator programs, STEM “sororities” and groundbreaking conferences sponsored by Google and others. And while originally focused on Africa, YaaW is quickly going global.

Fresh off her win as Africa Tech Festival’s 2021 Female Innovator of the Year, we spoke with Nyamekye about her passion for representation in STEM and what advice she has for fellow entrepreneurs.

How would you describe your job at Google to someone who doesn’t work in tech?

I’m a marketing strategist at Google, meaning I find ways to explain to Fortune 500 companies how Google Cloud can help them. I do that through customer testimonials, stories, blogs and events.

What inspired you to get involved in STEM representation?

I’m an alumni of several leadership development programs. They inspired me to believe and bet on myself, and that really catapulted my entire college and corporate career. I was able to work at the best of the best companies, because these programs gave me the skills, attitude and connections to succeed. I knew I had to bring this specifically to Black women. Because as much as I loved those experiences, I still felt there were gender-specific gaps in skill-development training. Those gaps led me to start Yielding Accomplished African Women (YaaW).

Tell us more about why you started YaaW.

Forty percent of Black college students switch out of STEM majors because they don’t believe they can actually finish these degrees. They don’t have the support they need. And many times, even when they do complete it, they don’t have access to recruiters and companies to set them up for career success. As a Black woman who studied STEM and went into finance, I understand this fight. And what we want to do at YaaW is ensure that the path is easy for anyone.

In 2019, YaaW hosted the Women in Machine Learning Conference in Ghana. What was that experience like?

This was the first machine learning conference in Africa specifically for women. It was a three-day event filled with sisterhood, personal development, professional development and a lot of heavy training. We even brought in three women machine learning engineers from Google.

You founded YaaW at just 21 years old. What advice do you have for other young women who want to start their own businesses?

Research. But go beyond just your business model and quantitative analysis. What in history can give you secrets for the future? When I was in college, I was just gleaning from history — from philosophers and sociologists who wrote things hundreds of years ago that we still stand on today. If you’re building something, research who’s done it extremely well. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn from them.

Who’s an inspirational woman in your own life?

My grandmother. She was illiterate, never went to school and worked on a farm all her life. She made a choice to make sure all of her children were educated — and this was in the 60s, in Ghana, as a poor woman. Now we have doctors and lawyers — and people giving interviews like this! — in the family. This year, YaaW is establishing a million-dollar scholarship program for Black college women in her name.

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