The Problem Thinkubator Media is Trying to Solve

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VIDEO: The Thinkubator Media Difference

Thinkubator Media is proud of its work and highlights here how its methodology is different.

Meet Anne Chisa, Host of The Root of Science Podcast

Thinkubator Media sits down with Anne Chisa, the host of The Root of Science Podcast. Her show is dedicated to amplifying the voices of Africans in STEM. Her podcast shares stories from Africans in STEM across the globe, and gives her guests the opportunity to tell their stories and share their research projects in their own voices.

Anne shares some of those stories, what inspired her to start the podcast, and tells us more about her own research in this video.


FDA Approves Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine: What Changes Now?

Image of multiple COVID-19 vaccine vials. Photo by Daniel Schludi on Upsplash

With the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, we should expect to see an increase in vaccine mandates from employers and agencies who have had difficulty encouraging staff and affiliates to get the vaccine. After the approval, the military said they would require their active duty US troops to get vaccinated. That’s over 1 million people.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 30 percent of Americans said they would get the vaccine if it was approved by the FDA, but will this approval truly change the tide? A recent article in the Atlantic states that one in four Americans don’t plan to get the COVID-19 vaccine, and about half of Republicans under 50 say they won’t get a vaccine.

To truly change our abysmal vaccination rates, or at least make a moderate effort to increase the number of folks getting vaccinated, it’s important to expand on the communication shared about vaccine efficacy.

Urging those who have yet to get the vaccine is important, but the sharing of information is critical. Rather than, “See?! It’s OK, go get the shot!,” It’s important to continue to include data, statistics, and information about why the vaccine is the key to finally getting out of this pandemic (and also the awful alternative of contracting COVID).

Share reliable sources of information, encourage people who haven’t got the vaccine to speak with their doctor, and offer your support. The only way we are going to get this pandemic under control is if we reach an inoculation rate of at least 70-85 percent. According to Dr. Fauci, the US could have this pandemic under control by early next year if we’re able to ramp up vaccine administration.

It’s disheartening to think about how far we have to go to reach herd immunity, but we must continue to encourage vaccines and debunk the misinformation being shared about these potentially life-saving shots.

Will Politics Defeat America in its War Against COVID-19?


Photo of a medical-grade face mask. Photo by the blowup on Unsplash

A recent study released by NPR provided some sobering facts about how delicate and critical these next few months are to getting us out of this pandemic.

According to the report, 49 percent of Republican men and 47 percent of Trump supporters have indicated they do not plan to receive the COVID vaccine, despite reports that former President Trump and former First Lady Melania were quietly vaccinated back in January. Forty percent of white men without college degrees have also said they do not plan on taking the vaccine. In addition, 10 percent of respondents who voted for Biden also said they don’t plan to get the shot.

Despite Dr. Fauci’s claim that receiving the vaccine is not a political issue, it is. The statistics above make that very clear.

So how do we make what appears to be a political issue… not a political issue? President Biden has suggested backing off statements from politicians and I couldn't agree more. In fact, a recent focus group indicated that not even Trump could be influential in convincing his supporters to receive the vaccine. The study cited that participants “did not have trust in politicians or anyone perceived as partisan.”

Instead, it has been suggested that vaccine advocates should be doctors and faith and community leaders. This makes sense, given that many of these folks are seen as guideposts for social issues and political advice from their followers. But there’s one more group that should be elevated during this process.

Over the past few years, science has been assaulted in ways never thought possible, and the pandemic only made matters worse. As Dr. Facui recently said in a panel discussion, “The [lesson] that I think is most cogent is that if ever you want to have a historic pandemic, don’t have it at a time when there’s intense divisiveness in society. If you are going to fight a pandemic, it’s got to be the entire country pulling together.”

If we are to reach herd immunity through vaccination, the buy-in of skeptics is required, and that includes a vast majority of those mentioned in the statistics above. Bringing to the table non-partisan groups, such as faith and community leaders and local doctors is a great start, but scientists need to be a part of the conversation as well. This will ensure continuity in the messaging of the safety and efficacy of vaccines, but also heal the gaping wound dealt to the scientific community through conspiracy theories, misinformation, and the proliferation of falsehoods through social media and other influential platforms. Keep the politics out, but bring the science in.

Who better to talk about the safety of the vaccines than Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, the lead of the Coronavirus Program for the National Institutes of Health, who was instrumental in developing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine; she is already conducting community outreach initiatives to combat the hesitancy so many may feel. Bringing on and supporting scientific experts such as Dr. Corbett will help reduce the misinformation that can oftentimes spread due to the miscommunication between those who know the science and well-intentioned leaders delivering the information.

This is a critical time for communication and understanding. The research has spoken and after more than a year, there is a light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. Barbeques and gatherings could be possible this summer but only if we band together as a nation, trust in science, and become effective and empathetic communicators who are open to having hard, fact-based conversations with those who have expressed skepticism or genuine concern about what getting the vaccination will mean to them. The only way we’re getting out of this is together. It’s time to stop fighting against the tide and start riding the waves as a collective.

STEM, STEAM, & STEMM What Does it All Mean?

Female scientist looking at vials in a laboratory. Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

There is much debate about how to describe the broad fields of science and engineering, some of the most popular being STEM, STEAM, and STEMM.

STEM is the original description created by the National Science Foundation.

STEM= Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

This acronym became widely used in the early 2000s following several reports that U.S. students were falling behind in these important fields. The U.S. education system used this acronym to quickly describe the areas that students needed to improve on rapidly.

Over time, additional acronyms were created to describe this field of work:

STEAM= Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math

STEMM= Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Medicine

But, the question remains; why do we use so many different acronyms for the same field of work? According to The Innovation Unit, a focus on acronyms “gives permission. Permission for educators to respond to the needs of their learners in their context. Permission to engage those they serve in learning that is deep, relevant and applied: learning that matters”.

The inclusion of different fields within the same acronym brings more people into the conversation when describing how we define careers in science. Thinkubator Media uses STEMM to support our mission of inclusivity. Women in all of these disciplines are in need of support. The issues and barriers women face in fields such as the applied sciences are similar to the challenges women in engineering, healthcare, and biotechnology also experience. Our mission is to support and elevate all women in innovation.

Working women need more supports

Women huddled around a laptop during a meeting in conference room. Photo Credit: Christina @

Featured in CommonWealth Magazine

Mid-March marks the moment many of us were sequestered into our homes as a result of the coronavirus. We all made significant changes in our lives, and the lives of our children, to help stop the significant spread of the virus.

As a result of this seismic shift, many individuals began to struggle with a work-life balance, and that is especially true for women. Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent op-ed in the Washington Post painted a stark picture of how the pandemic has disproportionately affected women. The numbers don’t lie: 2.5 million women have lost their jobs or dropped out of the workforce because of the pandemic. Five million women were business owners in February 2020; one in four of these women had to close their doors by April 2020.

As founder and CEO of an organization that aims to elevate the profiles of women in science, I have had countless conversations with women who have pursued a career in science. I have seen the mountains of challenges women are plowing through to make home, work, and career all possible. This pandemic isn’t the start of these challenges, of course. It has merely accelerated and further highlighted the work that needs to be done to build systems and supports to help women succeed in the society we live in—a system that has been built for men to succeed.

Here’s an example. When I ran for office, part of the job was to knock on doors, meet voters, and talk about platform issues. I was excited to talk about science policy, creating opportunities for affordable childcare, transportation, and, my specialty, communication. Instead of getting the hard-hitting questions I anticipated, I was peppered with inquiries such as, “What are you other than a mom?” or “What are you going to do with your daughter when you are at work?”

As a young mother working in a newsroom, I lost thousands of dollars in daycare due to shifts changes and was told these were the challenges of a working mother.

I have been paid less than my male counterparts serving in similar roles and spent a large part of my career fighting for job growth and titles when men within the same organizations could slide a proposal across the table and get the promotion they wanted.

When building my own business focused on the sciences, I was determined to level the playing field, providing a platform and programs that support women in science in a holistic and meaningful way – a philosophy that lifts women up and doesn’t jam them into a male mold or model of success. This desire to make a change was further cemented by the conversations about the needs women in science truly have.

Vice President Harris is shining a light on a critical issue in our country and around the world. Women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic and now we as a nation need to help amend this.

I’ve spent countless hours on calls with women who are trying to manage (and teach) kids, run labs, maintain their research, keep up committee work, provide mentorship, secure grant funding, and teach. The task is impossible, but these women, despite the odds, are getting it done. We’ve shared tears, frustrations, and countless interruptions (some happy and joyful others not so much). We’re all trying to stay afloat, but right now, when women generally still carry much of the responsibilities at home, we have to look at how we can support and elevate women, and in my sphere, women in science.

A recent study revealed the true impact the pandemic has had on women in science, citing that COVID-19 papers with a woman as the first author were 19 percent lower than for papers published in the same journal a year earlier, and let’s not get started about tenure.

Until we have systems and measures put in place that consider the needs and lives of men and women equally, organizations need to consider other options, such as providing resources to help with advocating and promoting their women, not just through workshops and trainings, but by providing a person or team to help do the work.

Women in science cannot be asked to find any more time in their day. What organizations and institutions should really be asking is:

As vaccinations continue across the country and as we begin to talk about what a post-pandemic life will look like, it is critical the information and data collected on women in science and the impact the pandemic has had on their careers are used to start making smart, empathetic, and meaningful change on what supporting women should truly look like now and in the future.

As US Accelerates Vaccine Distribution, Curiosity Turns to Kids

School children, wearing masks, walking in a line up a flight of stairs.

Despite this report and the historic nature of the pandemic and vaccine production, the reaction seen with vaccine approvals for adults provides insight into how the response to COVID-19 vaccinations might go when approved for young children and tweens. There is hope, though, but the work has to start now.

Read the full article in The Globe Post.

Imposter Syndrome: Companies Must Take Ownership

Photo of an empty meeting room lined with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. Photo by Benjamin Child on Unsplash.

Do you remember that Always commercial, “Like a Girl”? I find myself thinking about it when I’m a part of conversations about imposter syndrome. To me, this ad highlights how society’s beliefs about women and girls begins to shift as we seek advancements and positions of power. These “roles” women are placed into usually have nothing to do with supporting women, but rather are used to make other people feel comfortable about themselves and their place in a company or organization.

The Imposter syndrome theory has been around since 1978 by psychologists Pauline Rose Clance and Suzanne Imes. This is expressed as having feelings of self-doubt that persist, no matter where you sit on the ladder of success. In their research, Clance and Imes theorized that women are uniquely affected by impostor syndrome.

Famous and highly successful people have talked about suffering from feelings of inadequacy at moments in their lives, such as Michelle Obama, Tina Fey, Penélope Cruz, and Selena Gomez. It is estimated that 75 percent of female executives feel this way. If you are a woman, you have most likely been a part of a training, workshop, or summit about this subject. I, for one, attended many in my time.

Contrary to what many believe, Imposter syndrome doesn’t necessarily mean low self-esteem. In fact, some researchers have linked it with perfectionism, especially in women. Through discussions with many women, especially in science, the idea of imposter syndrome is heightened due to the standards that are placed on them in the workplace.

More often than not, there are only a few women in the room helping make decisions, and that number decreases for women of color. These women are oftentimes held to standards that demand perfection, because, whether we like it or not, in many scientific organizations and institutions, women are still being asked to prove they belong in the room. In addition to these unrealistic standards, women are oftentimes volunteering more, serving on more committees, mentoring, and, if she has a family at home, she is usually bearing the brunt of most of the child-rearing responsibilities at home. How is this sustainable?

This weight is felt and understood by women. It leads us to make sure we’re prepared for anything before presenting, double and triple-checking qualifications before applying for jobs or starting a business, checking countless boxes before running for office, and in science, imposter syndrome has been credited to the “leaky pipeline” for women pursuing STEM careers. In a recent survey taken by its membership in 2020, the US-based Association for Science cited the barriers that female STEM leaders encounter were cultural issues, ideas or work being credited to men, feelings of inadequacy leading to fear of being called a fraud.

There are a few things you can do to help combat imposter syndrome for yourself, but I’d like to focus on what companies can do to help support the women within their organizations.

It’s time to change the narrative.

I was on a call where leaders of an organization commented that they offer many opportunities for women to take the leadership roles on key research projects, but women rarely step up and volunteer themselves, so these roles end up being taken by men. This kind of language continues to place the burden on women who, as we’ve already established, have a good few barriers to overcome already.

Here’s how this statement should be reframed: Women are not taking on leadership positions within our organization, despite these opportunities being presented to them. What can we shift within our structure to provide the support women need to take on these opportunities and become leaders for our team?

This statement takes the ownership of the problem off women and places it where finding the solution belongs—with the organization.

Companies usually have good intentions, but how can they fix a structure rife with barriers to entry and unattainable standards placed on women, if many helped create the problem in the first place?

Imposter syndrome is real, and women have been attending countless training and seminars to help offset these feelings. It’s now time for companies to take ownership and start shifting their narratives and look within their own structures to root out the parts of their business that help perpetuate the barriers women face when climbing the ladder.

It’s time to put money behind promises of advancing women

Photo of a black woman laughing and smiling against a bright yellow background. Image Credit: Photo by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash.

Within the next decade, we are going to see one of the largest wealth transfers in human history—up to $68 trillion is expected to be handed to the next generation of philanthropists over the next 25 years, many benefactors of this wealth will be women.

I’ve dedicated my career to elevating women in science. I see it as the only way our society can move forward and advance research; however, this mission is not shared by everyone, and that may not come as a surprise to many of you. So, if you are still questioning or are not sure of why it’s fundamentally important to have women at the table for scientific discoveries, how about we talk about where this lack of investment might hurt most—financially. Has the fire been lit under you yet? Let me explain.

Wealth transfer aside, women already control more than half of our nation’s private wealth. In fact, a recent study published in the same report showed women give more often and when they do, they give more. On top of that, according to a recent report, women already control the wealth in 90 percent of affluent households and are expected to control two-thirds of all the wealth in the U.S. by 2030. It will also come as no surprise that women also tend to give to groups supporting their own gender.

Add trillions of dollars on top of this female philanthropic windfall and you have some very big reasons to finally invest in women and appoint them in positions they’ve deserved, but have been kept out of reach through the deep-seated patriarchy of many scientific institutions—leadership.

Philanthropists are always looking for organizations to give to, and they are going to want to give to institutions, and organizations that value and support women in leadership and throughout their companies.

The good news is, these women already exist, and always have. They are brilliant, strong, engaging leaders who already serve within the ranks of many organizations, and supporting them can be done in many ways. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Put women in leadership roles. A recent report of the biotech industry highlighted the work we have to do to achieve gender and racial parity in leadership positions. Women make up nearly 45% of employees, but only 30% of executive teams and an abysmal 18% on biotech company boards. These numbers drop even further when looking at people of color: 15% and 14% respectively. “Highest Paid Executives are generally people with the most power, and having females and people of color in these roles signals to employees, customers, and investors that the company is interested in diverse perspectives,” the report states.
  2. Create platforms where women’s voices can be heard. I have spoken to many women throughout the scientific community and their experiences, compared with the perspective leadership, directly conflict with each other. Leadership will often say there are many opportunities to “step up,” but women aren’t volunteering themselves. The real question these companies should be asking is, “What is it within our organization and its structure that prevents or deters women from taking on leadership roles?” Looking at elevating women from this perspective will provide a different (and critical) viewpoint to companies who are curious, or should be curious, about why women aren’t being tapped for leadership positions.
  3. Men need to help. Yes, women cannot do this alone, especially given the fact that many executive positions within an organization are held by men. This needs to be done with self-awareness and empathy. Here’s what I mean, women are asked to do at least double to work and be flawless in their execution. Women are serving on committees, volunteering, and sometimes going through the stressful exercise of the tenure process during child-rearing years (if they are choosing to have children). Generally speaking, women are still the primary caretakers at home. More men need to understand the nuances of being a woman in science, and that requires asking questions and seeking out ways to support women doing the work. Some people, even women, will refute this statement, claiming that women in science should not be treated differently. Yes, I agree, but here’s the thing. Men are different from women. Not better, different. This means companies and organizations need to stop jamming women into the male molds society has constructed to measure success, power, and advancement. Different types of “molds” can net the same success, as long as you consider the person rather than defaulting to the “it’s always been done this way” approach. With this frame of mind, women can stop attending countless training sessions meant to help advance themselves in a male-dominated world, and spend more time doing the work they’ve dedicated their careers to.

I see the value and understand that diverse voices can advance discovery in ways never imagined (it would also be nice to have women’s voices and research to address the many health issues that plague women and have gone unfunded or underfunded for years).

With the Great Wealth Transfer on the horizon, it’s time for you to look around at your organization and have an honest conversation about where you have let women fall through the cracks.