Larisa Bowen-Dodoo is the founder of Levers in Heels, a digital media enterprise highlighting African women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
She is also a member of the Global Shapers community, a multi-stakeholder initiative of the World Economic Forum.
What inspired you to found Levers in Heels?
In my undergrad years, I was one of four young women in a male-dominated engineering class. It was there that I realized the impact having female STEM role models could potentially have on me and my career.
So, I thought to myself, “If there is a wealth of real-life experience, insights, and knowledge out there from experienced women in STEM, I’d love to tap into that to motivate, inspire, empower and support women like myself.
What drives you to want to profile these women?
Levers in Heels is driven by my ethos and mission to give a voice to African women in STEM. We examine the barriers these women face from every angle in their respective countries. At the same time, we also amplify their achievements to inspire and empower our readers, particularly the next generation of African female STEM leaders.
Can you tell us more about your business as a social venture?
Women have made many strides in STEM fields, but their achievements go disregarded. These women are needed today more than ever to share their stories; contributions and struggles, to inspire girls into becoming the next generation of STEM leaders.
At Levers in Heels, I have been able to provide girls (from primary to senior high levels) with the opportunity to connect, through shared experiences, with our featured women in STEM via video conference calls. We have started this outreach project in Ghana and are looking for more opportunities to expand to the rest of Africa.
What four skills have you found yourself using/learning frequently since starting Levers in Heels?
Before I started Levers in Heels, I knew nothing about running a website, let alone a digital media enterprise. I did, however, learn not to underestimate the value, impact, and consistency of the content I was sharing.
Whether your digital content is for social good, business or both, consistency is key. This establishes your credibility and authority in the space you find yourself in.
It has also been important for me to learn how to communicate my passion and enterprise in an engaging way, both online and offline. The more often you put yourself and your work out there, the faster your communication skills will grow.
To improve your communication skills, you need to engage with the very people who find your content useful. One way I do this is through Levers in Heels’ discourse events.
Lastly, I don’t stop learning. It is necessary to keep your own learning and personal development active. There are so many courses online, both free and paid, that you can take to start your own enterprise. With such easy access to knowledge and resources, there really is no excuse that you can’t create your own opportunities.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in growing in this space?
The state of the digital publishing evolves every day. It is challenging having to keep up with new tools and resources if you plan on remaining relevant. It isn’t enough to have a great brand name these days.
Content generation can also be demanding, especially in my case where I have to do quite a lot of research to scout women in STEM across Africa for an interview.
Is the African Woman in STEM real? How do you think women in STEM impact the continent?
Africa is at a stage where it requires the expertise of STEM in solving its challenges. Today, we cannot think about development without considering how we can leverage STEM to move forward.
Women have an equal role to play in this as some of these challenges, more than often, affect them and their children. With our perspectives and ideas on these issues, we can come up with better solutions which will benefit the whole continent.
I can confidently say that the African woman in STEM is real, with all the evidence gathered from the amazing stories I share on Levers in Heels.
What is your long-term goal/vision for Levers in Heels?
My vision for Levers in Heels is simple – to be the continent’s leading digital media enterprise for African women in STEM.
You’ve spoken to so many women in STEM, what would you single out as outstanding?
I love the diversity that comes with every engagement. For me, there’s great value in recognizing the different perspectives in my conversations with them.
This helps me, and ultimately my readers, to better understand their point of view on specific questions or topics. It is about hearing and learning from them more than anything.
A lot of young African women are seeking guidance in the STEM space, what would be your key advice to them?
Have the confidence to pursue it and be present.
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