Women's History Month commemorates and celebrates the contributions women make to science, technology, history, politics, law, art, and greater society in ways that are too numerous to list. Being a professional woman in the tech space means something different to every single woman on our team and they have all taken different paths to get here. This month we're taking the opportunity to learn more about their inspiring stories and what Women's History Month means to them.
Amanda is an Innovation Strategist, app entrepreneur, and podcaster with a background in brand development. Her career focus is on helping individuals and institutions, both domestically and abroad, design, launch and grow new products, incubation programs, and entrepreneurship ecosystems. On our team, Amanda is integral to the success of the Accelerate VI incubator programs.
- What does Women’s History Month mean to you? Women's History Month is a moment for us, and for those that love us, to pause and recognize our contributions. Women give so much to our world and it's important that we celebrate each of those wins, both big and small.
- Why do you support women’s empowerment/gender equality? Women are the anchors and lifeblood of so many communities. When we pour into them, encourage and uplift them each of us is made better for it.
- What is your favorite strength/characteristic as a woman? Why? Women are abundant beings. We have the capacity, strength, and resilience to make something out of nothing...and do it in style.
In her position as Chief of Staff, Aminah focuses on connecting the dots, solving the problems, and making those critical connections necessary to keep the RTPark moving forward.
- What's one of the most important lessons you've learned being a woman? The most important lesson I’ve learned as a woman is you have to believe and know you are powerful and you have to be fearless. In life, you will be faced with many obstacles, but you have to face them not with fear, but with faith that the supreme has your back. If you want something you have to stand up and fight for it. Once a woman conquers her fears there is nothing she can’t do. Be fearless in everything you do. Figure out what is best for you and fight for it. Don't be a bystander in your own life.
- Who are your favorite cultural heroines? - My favorite cultural heroines are Harriet Tubman and Queen Mary. They were fearless. Harriet Tubman fought for freedom she went through unbelievable odds to get to be free. But what makes her my hero is that she went back through what was a life-threatening journey to bring so many other people to freedom also. That’s fearlessness when you want something not only for yourself but for others also. The same goes for Queen Mary here in the Virgin Islands. She was fearless leading her people to fight for higher pay and better working conditions. She was willing to face the consequences for making the changes she knew had to happen for the people. These two women faced unbelievable odds and fought not just for themselves but all. I am always in awe of their courage, tenacity, and willingness to put others above themselves. That is what we all need to thrive to be.
- Why do we need more women in leadership/STEM/Technology? We need more women in leadership positions in technology. Technology is the future. We are moving into an age where technology is changing the world. Women tend not to want to go into science fields and technology because it seems too hard, too boring, and is less personal than other fields. However, technology touches every aspect of our lives and women can bring unique ideas and creativity that men can’t bring to the table. Most of the products women use every day are going to have mini computer chips in them that need to be coded by women who understand how that product is going to be used by a woman and what a woman wants and needs. I love what we are seeing now with more young women getting into STEM careers, coding, and entrepreneurship. We now have a lot of opportunities for women to get into technology and to take leadership roles. It is our time. So as Shirley Chisholm said when she spoke on how to make your presence felt: "If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."
Siobhan has worked with the RTPark in numerous capacities since 2015 in the areas of business development, finance, administration and compliance. She works directly with RTPark clients to guide them through the application processes, ensure their businesses remain in compliance with program requirements, as well as connecting clients to enrichment opportunities with the University of the Virgin Islands.
- Why do you support women’s empowerment/gender equality? I support women’s empowerment and equality for my daughter and for all the strong, brave, beautiful baby girls who are our future. I support it and fight for it so they can see their worth, so they can know their value and they can believe in themselves and everything that they want to do. I support it because if I didn’t, I would not be the mother that my daughter deserves.
- Who is the most influential woman you know? How does she inspire you? The most influential women in my life are my sisters, all four of them. I am the youngest girl in my family, with an eleven-year gap between myself and the closest sister above me, so of course I watched them and looked up to them as I grew up. Maria is a scientist, one of the top five in her field in North America. Lee is Dean at the Colburn School in LA, and before that at Juilliard in NYC. She was the youngest Dean that Julliard has had, an even more impressive feat as a woman! Lynne works extensively in the field of AIDS research and care, and her heart is bigger than anyone I know, and Dom is a writer who has made me laugh, cry and everything in between with her words. She’s my go-to editor for all my writing needs. Needless to say, I’ve always had big shoes to fill, and watching them has given me the drive to push towards my own success. I love you all
- What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned being a woman? The most important thing I’ve learned is not to be scared to go for what you want. I am where I am because I put myself out there; when a position opened up that I knew I was qualified for, I always went for it. If I felt I deserved a raise, I always asked for, if I see something I want, I go for it. I think women often feel intimidated and don’t put themselves out there, but the only person who’s going to lose out by standing back is yourself.
Naisha supports and helps execute all aspects of financial reporting and management of core administrative functions of the RTPark. She also ensures the smooth running of RTP’s day-to-day functions, including providing the administrative support necessary to advance the organization’s mission.
- What is one of the most important lessons you have learned being a woman? As a woman, the most important lesson I have learned is to be my own advocate and to speak up for myself and others. Growing up, as women we are thought to be seen and not heard to suit the male-driven image that society has laid out for us. We are to be pretty, demure, and hide our talents unless it pertains to our children, homemaking skills or our beauty. We are thought to make changes behind the scenes and never realize our full potential. However, over the years, I have learned that I do not fit into that mold. I am a woman with talents that go far and wide beyond what society deems fit and I allow myself to express that in my profession and personal life. I speak up and voice my opinions because I know that they are valid. My education and years of experience matter and will not be hidden or tamed to fit society's norms because I know I am a powerful woman.
- What is your favorite strength/characteristic as a woman? Why? My favorite strength as a woman is my voice. And when I say my voice, I do not mean I can sing because the only place I excel at singing is in my head 😊. What I am referring to is my ability to speak my mind, tell it like it is, or just say it. From a young age, I learned that I needed to be my own heroine, and what better way to do so than by expressing myself. I have been an active participant in my life and not a bystander. Nothing just happens to me, I either made it happened or aided in the change. I speak for me and I refuse to not be heard! In my opinion, without your voice you cease to exist, so find your voice if you have not already, and if you have you are most definitely the boss of your domain.
- What are some important contributions women have made to our world? One of the most important contributions we as women make is our ability to bring life into the world. Think about…would there be scientists, entrepreneurs, teachers, astronauts, bankers, managers, and the list could go on and on without women? I really do believe that women are phenomenal beings and our ability to produce life is one of the ways that we make our mark in the world.
Sydney supports the RTPark’s business attraction and entrepreneurship activities through detailed research on tech market trends, fostering prospect relations, and a myriad of other organizational affairs. In addition, she manages the communications and public relations activities for the RTPark.
- What progress have you seen with gender equality in your own life and work? It is inspiring to see more Virgin Islands women being recognized in the tech space whether they are launching startups or leading major projects at distinguished corporations. Not only do we connect on a cultural level, but it is empowering to see their unique perspectives shape the future of innovation.
- What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned being a woman? I have learned how important it is to speak up and be confident in your what you bring to the table. Our voices and perspectives are critical to every aspect of the human experience--socially, economically, and politically. It would be a disservice to your community to be silent.
- What are some of the biggest challenges that women face today? How will these change in the next 20 years? In many communities, including the Caribbean, we need to have deeper discussions around dismantling patriarchy which has hidden behind the cloak of tradition and culture. This includes everything from the objectification of our bodies to the lack of representation in leadership roles. I welcome a much-needed culture shift.
Yihan leads sustainability and foreign direct investment programs and initiatives at the RTPark. Prior to joining the RTPark, Yihan worked as an energy market consultant at a leading consulting company on energy financial modeling and market structure. She also has extensive experience working with the state and city governments on business attraction and foreign direct investments, especially in the field of sustainable enterprise attraction and sustainability policy development.
- What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned being a woman? One of the most important lessons I’ve learned being a woman is sitting at the table. In the world we live in, people listen to men more than women. Women are more easily criticized or even punished for being “aggressive” and “assertive”. Over the years I learned not to let the blame or pressure silence you. Women need to sit at the table, bring unique strengths and perspective, and through being present, alter the system.
- Why is feminism important? Feminism is gender equity. This is a fundamental human right. Being a feminist to me means believing in human equality, and that is fundamental equal respect for both women and men.
- Who are your favorite cultural heroines? Why? One of my favorite heroines is Jane Goodall. She proved to us that women can do what they put their minds to. Her goodwill, strength, courage, empathy, and authenticity consistently inspire me to lead a full life and make a difference in the world.
Shanice supports the RTPark's daily office needs and operations, as well as client compliance and onboarding.
- Why do you support women’s empowerment? I support women's empowerment because we live in a world that constantly tells a woman that she "can't" do something or that we are too fragile to overcome something. Society says that being a woman, especially a Black woman makes us incapable of so many things. In fact, that is the opposite of the truth. I have a daughter and I need her to understand that women are by far the most powerful beings on this planet. We are the most capable beings, and we are the worthiest of this world and so much more. I tell myself that every day and that is what I teach her.
- Share a women’s empowerment moment that inspired you? There are so many instances when I felt inspired as a woman but the one that inspired me the most recently was seeing and learning about Women's powerlifting. Powerlifting is a strength sport that consists of 3 lifts: squat, bench press, and deadlifts at maximum weight in a single lift. I never really paid attention to it because I figured that it was a male-dominated sport; however, when I saw women participating in it too, I was immediately intrigued. It was just so amazing to see women of all ages with so much physical strength. I was so inspired that I joined the sport. I realized that it's not just about physical strength it's about my mental, emotional, and spiritual strength too which made me respect the sport even more.
- What’s one of the most important lessons you’ve learned being a woman? The most important lesson that I've learned being a woman is to always protect yourself. You must protect your mind, body, soul, and peace. There are factors that you will encounter in life that will constantly try to take advantage and attack those parts of you, but you must protect them fiercely and with no apologies. There were so many moments when I found those aspects of myself weakening because I allowed someone or something to enter that space. Once I started making the cognizant effort to have constant check-ins with myself, I found that I was a lot clearer-headed and was able to function on a more elevated level.
Dominique supports RTPark as a marketing specialist. She works with the team to develop strategic marketing campaigns to educate the community on RTPark initiatives and grow our programs. Dominique has extensive marketing experience and currently co-owns a growing digital agency.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
- Women’s History Month is a welcome reminder to take a step back to recognize the contributions of women throughout history and the inspiring work women are doing today.
- Why do you support women’s empowerment/gender equality?
There’s no other option. Women who came before me fought for me to have the choices and opportunities I do today. It’s my responsibility to fight for the women who will come after me. It’s not enough to technically have access to many of the things men do, it’s critical that we continue to push for true equality.
- Who is the most influential woman you know? How does she inspire you?
Janis Valmond, DrPH, Deputy Commissioner of the Virgin Islands Department of Health - my mom. She is a driven, caring, take-no-nonsense, and nurturing woman. She balances her education and career with being a dedicated mom and family member. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without my mother’s example and the confidence she instills in me.
Lymaris is a senior at the St. Croix Central High School and a RTPark intern supporting various administrative duties. Her future career goal is to be the owner of her own business.
- Why is feminism important? Feminism is Important because, without feminists, we would not be where we are today. Feminism is a movement that empowers women and fights for the equality of females to males. During history, women never had a say, and their voices were barely heard, even though they were responsible for some of the most innovative ideas. The feminist platform finally gives women a chance for their voices to be heard and freedom to express themselves.
- Who is the most influential woman you know? How does she inspire you? I know this may sound cliché, but my mother is the most influential woman I know. She inspires me to be the best version of myself that I could possibly be. All my life, she was always there for me and my siblings. Making sure we knew we were loved and cherished. She cooked, cleaned, and helped us with scholastics. She did all this while working a minimum wage job to pay the bills and make sure we had everything we needed. Even on her bad days, she would put her problems to the side to tend to us with a smile. I get my motivation from her. I want her to be proud of my success and show her that the efforts were not in vain and that she is deeply appreciated.
- What is your favorite strength/ characteristic as a woman? Why? Personally, my favorite characteristic of a woman is the fact that we bring life into the world. I think this the most beautiful thing. Being able to birth a child takes so much strength that frankly, men do not have. On top of that, you must be behind that child making sure it's fed, groomed, and taken care of, which takes so much energy, strength, and patience. Men can do this yes, but not as a woman would. This is why all my respect goes to women and mothers out there because even though I am not in that group, I recognize the fact that it takes a lot.