Tech entrepreneur Winnie Karanja continues her work in STEM with Represented Collective | Company

When tech entrepreneur Winnie Karanja launched his Madison Maydm non-profit in 2015, she noticed a curious trend.

“When you ask people to name an engineer, an innovator, a STEM leader, they say: Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk,” said Karanja, who founded Maydm to provide girls and youth of color in grades 6-12 with skills training for the tech sector.

Highlighting the contributions of women and people of color in STEM — and nurturing the next generation of tech leaders — is part of the mission of her latest venture, a new media company called Collective represented.

Represented Collective works with educators and businesses to promote equity and representation in STEM, through educational activities and programs for learners of all ages. The company manufactures products that promote the contributions of women and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPoC) to STEM fields.

Karanja’s transition from the non-profit realm to the represented collective came from wanting to move from “something very localized…to building a business that has an impact, not just an educational product, but works with companies”.

She said it would involve public campaigning and community work, but also “creating educational content in the K-8 space.” Represented Collective will also launch training and content for businesses to create equitable teams and workplaces.

On the education side, Karanja and Represented Collective have created a set of puzzles called Nakira’s World. Children can experience Nakira’s World activities at Dane County Public Libraries. The program is part of The Ripple Projectan effort by libraries to engage the community in meaningful conversations about race.

“Nakira’s World centers on an 8-year-old Kenyan immigrant – who I like to call my ‘mini self’ – and the adventures of her and her friends around them,” said Karanja, who moved from Kenya in Madison at age 8. Old.

For the Nakira’s World activity, “Can you find the hidden object?” Decoder Puzzle Adventure,” students will assemble decoder puzzles and use their decoder glasses to uncover hidden mystery STEM-related elements in illustrated scenes. After that, they’ll make their own pair of custom decoder glasses.

The next session with Nakira’s World will take place on September 27 at DeForest Area Public Library from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Karanja’s work with Represented Collective also aims to honor black women and women of color who do transformative work. Another project she created, the Legendary Card Collective, shares untold stories and stories of women of color who have played a pivotal role in the technologies the world uses today.

The cards feature 41 profiles of women in STEM across all disciplines, including biochemistry, math, aerospace engineering, physics and medicine.

Some of the women featured include Alice Ball, a chemist who developed the “Ball Method”, the most effective treatment for leprosy in the 20th century. Another, Dr. Patricia Bath, invented an improved device for laser cataract surgery.

Others include Dr. Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill, the second Native woman to receive an MD from Woman’s Medical College in Pennsylvania in 1889. And Dr. Vivian Wing-Wah Yam, who is currently a professor at the University of Hong -Kong, whose research focuses on inorganic and organometallic chemistry and photochromic materials.

The Legendary Card Collection can be purchased on line for $40 and in stores in Houston. Karanja moved to Houston in 2021 and splits his time between Texas and Madison.

Karanja said Represented Collective is an amalgamation of all things that matter to his work, as he “addresses these critical points of education, corporate spaces (and) community discourse.”

Share your thoughts on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and city will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please limit your letter to 250 words or less.