“Listen to Yourself,” The Rest Will Follow: Meet Dr. Scyatta Wallace

Dr. Scyatta Wallace is the founder of the Janisaw Company and a trailblazer in the field of psychology. She has been featured in several notable media outlets, including CNN, Time, and Essence magazines. She has also received many accolades, including an award from the Women’s Division of the American Psychological Association. 

In our interview, Dr. Wallace gave us a look at what helps her achieve so much as she continues to strive while inspiring others. As a first-generation American with Liberian roots, Dr. Wallace faced many of the same challenges that Black and Brown women continue to encounter today.

However, her parents were so devoted to her and her brother’s success that they encouraged them to explore their curiosities early on. Dr. Wallace’s mother and father eagerly supported her early interest in science, giving her the freedom to dive into the multifaceted world of STEM to find her true passion. 

Dr. Wallace spent a lot of time shadowing teachers' assistants, professors, and colleagues in various labs across disciplines to get a taste of what the sciences had to offer. Her parents were supportive every step of the way. Eventually, she found solace in psychology. 

Since earning her Ph.D., Dr. Wallace has taken the psychology field by storm. Highlighting the importance of diversity, she shared how her unique upbringing as a first-generation woman influenced her experience and colleagues. 

Dr. Wallace’s upbringing as the daughter of immigrants has added a new perspective to the discourse and research she’s contributed to. Her own experience highlights the value of diversity in STEM and in all fields, giving us a chance to consider deeper and different questions that often dig up the need for change. 

Dr. Wallace was also a professor at St. John’s University where she bore witness to the importance of prioritizing our dreams over the goals and wishes of others, even our loved ones. She mentioned that there was a striking difference between the students who were following their hearts or following the wishes of others. In her case, Dr. Wallace’s parents’ loving support allowed her to blossom into her strengths, passions, and pursuits. She shared,  “If you’re doing things that are aligned with you, it’s easier to get through life and its challenges than when you’re pushing against yourself (doing something you don’t feel passionate about).”

One of Dr. Wallace’s most notable studies examined how various gender and race-based stereotypes, social pressures, and behaviors can negatively impact young Black girls’ self-esteem. The study, called “Gold Diggers, Video Vixens, and Jezebels: Stereotype Images and Substance Use Among Urban African American Girls,” brings awareness to social issues surrounding emotional wellness and potential health risks facing teenage Black girls. This study and others that Dr. Wallace and her colleagues have conducted continue to open doors for important conversations and lasting solutions for women and girls who are often overlooked. 

The study highlighted that one of the greatest remedies to harmful social pressures for Black youth lies in racial socialization. This form of race-based socialization is defined by the positive and lasting impact culturally empowering practices and experiences have on families and communities. One example includes educating our youth about accurate and inspiring culturally relevant people and events. Another small study cited in Dr. Wallace’s research revealed that Black youth who received messages and examples of Black pride and strength exhibited greater resiliency to harmful social pressures. By taking our identities into our own hands, it is easier to navigate the expectations and representations presented by the world as we become living examples of our innate excellence. 

As Dr. Wallace moves forward in her career, she continues to work with STEM students and professionals. As founder of the Janisaw Company, Dr. Wallace works directly with fellow founders and budding scientists alike,  particularly women and girls. She has also recently published a Success in Stem journal, a 52-week STEM journal to help young scientists stay organized and empowered. 

Amidst such mindful and consistent work, Dr. Wallace also shared how she has been finding ways to incorporate more rest into her routine rather than reaching burnout before considering true rest.

In a world where racism, sexism, and other detrimental social prejudices pollute our perspectives, it can be hard to make time to settle down. Many of the same harmful stereotypes and social pressures that Dr. Wallace explored in her study continue to affect Black women’s mental, physical, and financial wellness as we enter adulthood, even when we’ve already achieved greatness. Even when our loved ones are supportive and love us unconditionally. Even when we’ve achieved the American dream, it is up to us to make time for ourselves to embrace and enjoy our lives. This is much different from laziness, weakness, or anything else we may mislabel our need for rest and joy. 

Dr. Wallace continues to impact many lives while making the time to enjoy her own with her loving family and her teeming field of blossoming scientists. We look forward to seeing more of her groundbreaking work! 

 

Making Space for Motherhood: Why is it So Hard?

In a day and age when women are now expected to contribute as much of themselves to their work life as we once did our families and homes, it is baffling to find so many challenges when navigating the workspace comfortably and effectively as a mother. A 2021 McKinsey study shows that businesses led by women tend to outperform those with little to no women in senior positions. This statistic highlights that women and mothers are not only valuable at home but also to our economic wellness and growth. 

There have been some hopeful strides in bridging the gender gap in the workforce, making things appear equal on the surface. For example, in the U.S., women make up about half of the total scientists across STEM fields. While this is a positive fact,  Tara Barrow’s experience at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference can serve as a teachable moment. Barrow’s experience and others like it help pave the way for us to understand the importance of equity and creating solutions that are fair for everyone. 

A common issue women and mothers face is having safe, sanitary, and accommodating spaces to tend to their needs. As a new mom, breastfeeding and pumping become a regular part of a woman’s daily routine. Oftentimes, moms have to prepare to feed or pump at all hours of the day to provide nourishment for their children and maintain their own health. It requires a lot of energy to nurture someone. As mothers, there are rapid, permanent, and constant changes that occur on a cellular level, ultimately priming the mom to be a nurturer. Increased mental, emotional, and physical sensitivity affects the mother for years after the initial stages of postpartum. 

Women, particularly those who have chosen to become moms, live in a completely different world than the rest of us. To avoid the pitfalls that come with playing superwoman, such as mood disorders, decreased performance, insomnia, postpartum mood disorders, and substance abuse, it would be beneficial to consider and provide the accommodations necessary for mothers to rest in our power. 

How Can We Support Moms in the Workplace? 

Fellow mom and researcher Anna Kent shares a few pivotal ideas on how to actively support moms in the workforce, including better benefits and flexibility in the workplace, improved access to quality, affordable child care, and encouraging a deeper respect and understanding for all that women and mothers do at home, at work, and anywhere else we are needed. 

Include the women and mothers in your workplace in a meaningful and mindful dialogue on how to meet their needs more effectively. Regular check-ins and a little more help from our human nature can help us advance toward a more harmonious experience for mothers, their families, and our society as a whole. 

Understanding the biological implications of motherhood and the life-altering changes that come with it, women have been primed with a loving sense of duty that can be channeled into anything we are passionate about and empowered by. If women are driving much of our economic success as it is, imagine how much further we will be when women and mothers truly feel supported and empowered in all that we do.