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AEI Celebrates International Women's Day: Honoring the Resilience and Achievements of Black Women

On March 8, 2024, the world comes together to celebrate International Women's Day, a day dedicated to recognizing the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide. This year, as we commemorate this momentous occasion, it is imperative to shine a spotlight on the remarkable contributions of Black Women whose resilience, talent, and leadership have shaped history and transformed communities.

Throughout history, Black Women have been at the forefront of movements for equality, justice, and progress. From civil rights icons like Rosa Parks, Ella Baker, and Fannie Lou Hamer to cultural luminaries like Maya Angelou, Susan L. Taylor, and Oprah Winfrey, Black Women have played pivotal roles in shaping our collective consciousness and advancing social change. In the realm of STEM, Black Women have defied stereotypes and shattered glass ceilings, making invaluable contributions to innovation and discovery. From pioneering mathematicians like Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, to trailblazing scientists like Dr. Mae Jemison and Dr. Christine Darden, Black Women have left an indelible mark on the scientific landscape.

In Entrepreneurship, Black Women have emerged as dynamic leaders and visionaries, founding and leading companies that drive innovation and economic growth. From tech startups to fashion empires, Black Women entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, creating jobs, and reshaping industries. One such exemplary figure is Dr. Cristi Haygood, CEO of Alyse Engineering Innovations, whose 17+ year engineering career has been a testament to the adage, “lifting as you climb.” Continue reading to hear from her about the importance of representation and the genesis of Alyse Engineering Innovations…

Throughout my career, as I honed my technical abilities as a Mechanical Engineer and generated tangible and sustainable value, I felt it was important to consistently mentor and support fellow Engineers with achieving their career aspirations, professional development goals, and making self-care a priority. Whether I was presenting a workshop, participating in recruitment and retention activities, or leading an Employee Resource Group (ERG), I understood the value of sharing my resources, time, and talent to improve the workplace and help others navigate their career journeys. I especially recognized the importance of representation for myself and other minorities as we climbed the corporate ladder. Often I was the only woman, only black person, or both in my departments/division. Finding mentors and sponsors who believed in me, who I could bounce ideas off, seek advice from, and who would speak my name in rooms my feet had not entered was an essential part of my career success. These unsung heroes encouraged and supported me and it is imperative that I pay that kindness forward to empower and impact the next generation of STEM Professionals. 

As an Engineering Director, I recognized the development gap with Technical Professionals who aspired to become People Managers and intimately understood the hurdles faced by Technical Leaders. Leading global teams of over 75 Engineers, I navigated challenges such as resource constraints, a revolving door of VPs, and ever-changing organizational goals while striving to achieve eight-figure targets annually. The prevalent issue among Leaders is the constant pressure to drive performance, boost employee engagement, and meet KPIs without a clear roadmap. Amidst this landscape, I recognized the need for change and my capacity to drive it. Alyse Engineering Innovations was conceived as a response to these challenges, aiming to revolutionize Leadership Development. We are on a mission to redefine Executive Leadership and Productivity Strategy, empowering Technical Professionals to evolve into dynamic Leaders capable of driving innovation and developing high-performing teams. Our vision is to be the foremost organization in this space, disrupting the norm and ushering in a new era of leadership that prioritizes training, empowerment, and sustainable success. By seamlessly integrating leadership enhancement with engineering expertise, I provide a holistic solution that not only transforms Leaders, but also empowers them to drive organizational success, employee engagement, and innovation.

Dr. Cristi’s entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with her commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, serves as a beacon of inspiration for Black Women in STEM. However, it is essential to recognize that Black Women continue to face systemic barriers and disparities in various facets of society. From wage gaps to underrepresentation in leadership positions, Black Women confront intersecting forms of discrimination that threaten to undermine their potential and limit their opportunities.

On this International Women's Day, as we reflect on this year’s theme of "Breaking the Bias," let us reaffirm our commitment to amplifying the voices and uplifting the contributions of Black Women. Let us celebrate their resilience, honor their achievements, and stand in solidarity with them as they continue to break barriers and pave the way for future generations. Let us recognize that dismantling systemic inequities requires collective action and unwavering advocacy. Let us pledge to challenge stereotypes, confront prejudice, and create inclusive spaces where Black Women can thrive and excel, in business as in life, as we work towards a more equitable and just world for all.

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