When Greatness is Within You
Lisa Mae Brunson: Founder of Wonder Women Tech
Sponsored by Serendipity
Ever since I was a child, I knew I would do something extraordinary. I grew up in an under-served community in New Mexico and from a very young age, I wanted to be informed of what was going on around me. I understood that the world was much bigger than myself and was obsessed with (and still am obsessed with) learning more about outer space. I always thought I would become an astronaut. Unfortunately, I never saw any mixed-race female astronauts. In school, my strength was various science subjects (like biology and astrology). I would be the only girl to be excited about dissecting animals and usually the first person to volunteer myself for the task. I remember being so ecstatic when I got to dissect a pig's fetus and see all the organs inside. Despite my aptitude and interest, my teachers didn’t encourage me to pursue an education in biology or space; so, when I got to college, I didn’t think someone that looked like me could study those subjects. I declared a major in Psychology and English but unfortunately did not graduate with a formal degree. I got a job working at the Psychologist's office and was making more money than I thought I ever would.
Despite the lack of encouragement from those around me I still had the inherent building blocks of a technologist. I moved into the media space shortly after and was asked to create media campaigns for the Humanities Department at Arizona State University that focused on human values like forgiveness and self-reflection. During my time on that campaign, I got a better understanding of the impact that the intersection of media and technology could have in the world. I started bridging the gap between humanities and engineering and talking about how engineering students could have an impact on the humanities field. This led me to create a hackathon program called Hacks for Humanities. I was working with engineering students helping them understand how the apps they build could have a social impact. Finally, after so many years, I had found my natural habitat.
Five years ago, I started Wonder Women Tech to get corporations to enhance their diversity and inclusion (D&I) efforts for supporting women in STEAM fields. My biggest challenge has been to get corporations to see that social impact and D&I are valuable topics. When I started, tech was even more heavily male-dominated than it is today and quite frankly, companies were happy with the gender gap. There were no data to suggest that companies were not doing enough to hire, retain, and promote women. Changing the way society thinks is not an easy task and we had to work day in and day out to convince people they need to think more about representation. My effort was bootstrapped for the longest time and after four years of hard work, I finally got funding from companies to support my work. I want to make sure there are no more little girls like me who don’t tap into their dreams of being astronauts or scientists because they can’t see themselves in those fields.