PHL Inno’s weekly “Startup Spotlight” feature highlights founders and new businesses cropping up in the region.
The startup: Steminist Squad is a nonprofit online community created to educate and empower women to pursue education and careers in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.
Home base: Delran, New Jersey
Founder: Talia Tomarchio, a business and technology integration architect analyst with Accenture and an August 2021 Rowan University graduate.
Tomarchio, 29, came to Rowan as a returning student trying to immerse herself in the computer science community at the South Jersey university, but oftentimes found herself to be the only woman in her classes or at the study center.
Women represent about half of the workforce in the United States, but hold just 27% of careers in STEM, according to a 2021 report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“It’s not so much discrimination, it’s just creating a safe place for people to be themselves and be comfortable,” Tomarchio said. “And in computer science, women are that minority in the classroom. So it puts you in a different perspective of how comfortable you are.”
When Covid-19 hit in 2020, Tomarchio experienced even more disconnect with her peers in the computer science program and decided it was the perfect opportunity to build an online community to help women stay connected and support each other through online classes.
Tomarchio took her idea for Steminist Squad to several startup competitions and won first place in Rowan’s 2020 Idea Challenge. She also snagged first place in the 2021 Rohrer New Venture Competition at Rowan. Steminist Squad was a semi-finalist in KPMG’s Ideation Challenge, as well.
The product: Steminist Squad operates on social chat app Discord. There are specific chat rooms, or channels, for different degrees that members are interested in, such as pre-med or computer science. There are also channels for discussing internships, homework help and more.
The startup is targeting women in college and women considering pursuing degrees in STEM, she said. The Discord server currently has 150 participants hailing from all over the country, Tomarchio said.
“I want to be able to give women the tools and the support I felt like I didn’t have,” she said.
Funding: Steminist Squad has not raised any capital.
The goal: Steminist Squad is reaching out to colleges, organizations for women in STEM and alumni networks to expand its community. Tomarchio is working on programs with several Philadelphia-area universities to support women in STEM.
The startup is looking to expand its programming to include younger audiences in elementary or middle schools, Tomarchio said. Her goal is to reach 10,000 members by the end of 2022.
She is also seeking partnerships with tech companies to source internship and job leads for its members.
“Once we get that foundation of our community that large, I think that we could really utilize that for some good and to help people,” Tomarchio said.
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