LEADER SPOTLIGHT: Maansi Nema
[We at Bainbridge Island Girl Up recently decided to launch a Leaders' Spotlight series, and Maansi Nema was one of our first choices! Take a look at what she has to say below.]
Age / Grade / School
16/Rising Senior/Novi High School (Michigan)
Tell us about your organization, its mission, and your role.
STEM Without Boundaries (SWB) is a non-profit organization committed to educating, encouraging, and empowering students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. We strive to start sustainable STEM Nights in every community with mentorship, training guides & resources, and student committees. With our 13 chapters from over 5 states and 2 countries, our goal is to allow any students to lead a STEM Night in their own communities.
In my role as founder and CEO, I direct a team of 24 students from 6+ states. I have also reached out to 33 panelists from top-tier colleges and companies such as Google, Microsoft, and NASA to develop a Tech Series that was attended by 800+ students from 34+ states and 19+ countries.
What inspired you to launch SWB? I was inspired to create SWB after completing my Gold Award, which is the most prestigious award in Girl Scouts that's awarded to 5.4% of Girl Scouts. Because I knew this idea could be replicated in other communities, I was determined to allow any student to be able to do so. Currently, we lead monthly mentorship meetings with our chapters with our videos and guides.
In achieving my Gold Award, I dedicated over 400 hours. This included organizing three STEM Nights in 2 school districts with over 1, 150 attendees; partnering with 23 engineering organizations such as the Robot Garage, University of Michigan’s Society of Women Engineers, and the Michigan Science Center; recruiting 120 volunteers; contacting administration at all 20 elementary schools from 3 school districts and reaching out to over 25,000 people; and partnering with eight local businesses for sponsorships of $2,100.
What are some of the biggest challenges your organization faces in its operations, and how did you overcome them?
Recruiting students that are dedicated (not just doing things for their resume) to our goals and mission was one of the biggest challenges. To overcome this, we made sure to conduct interviews and were very specific when it came to what we expected from our directors. Since our team is very large, communication is very crucial, so we've developed weekly Google Forms where we all update the team what we have done and keep a daily spreadsheet where we can see what each of the directors have been doing. Networking and being able to reach a large audience is also a challenge. We formed more partnerships, participated in takeovers, and worked heavily on promoting ourselves well on social media.
Is there anything you would have done differently when starting up or running your organization?
Before I had always been really afraid of reaching out to people, especially when it meant asking for help. But throughout my experiences, I’ve learned that people are usually more than willing to help if you ask for it - so don’t be afraid!
What does leadership mean to you? Describe how you lead.
Leadership to me means never giving up. There's always challenges that arise, but it's up to you on how you deal with them. I strongly believe that everyone's voices on the SWB team should be heard, so we all ensure that we're communicating through our monthly meetings, weekly emails, and daily spreadsheets. A big part of leadership is also flexibility. Understanding that we're all humans, sometimes we mess up, and we're all here to grow through the process.
What would you say to girls or young women who are interested in making a difference or considering leadership?
You only miss 100% of the shots you don't take so it's better to just go for it rather than waiting on "perfecting" the idea. You'll learn as you go along. Surround yourself with a strong support system - people who celebrate your success and are there for you always is something that every girl should have. Find mentors in the community whether it be a teacher, a coach, or a someone you look up to help you along with the way that you can turn to for advice.
Who inspires you?
Rachel Hollis! She's been my role model since Day 1. I've always been inspired by her ambitious goals and how she works endlessly to meet them even when it's hard. I look up to her more than anything and embody her vision and perspective often into the work I do and the way I lead my life.
Where can we learn more about SWB?
More about you (bio):
I'm a rising senior at Novi High School and highly interested in pursuing tech and business. My intellectual curiosity and intrinsic love for learning is what has allowed to me to constantly work towards becoming the best version of myself. From starting my own nonprofit organization, to building an a team of directors across the country, I'm committed and dedicated towards creating a future where there is no gender gap in STEM. You can explore my website and find different ways I have engaged with society, extracurricular organizations, and my peers. See more about me at https://maansinema1.wixsite.com/myportfolio