Each week, the Grit Daily podcast features an insightful guest. But this is the first time we’ve come close to “touching the stars.” Meet Dr. José Morey, a celebrity amongst scientists who has worked on numerous noteworthy projects. Projects like: IBM Watson in the role of Associate Chief Health Officer. Head of Innovation for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop. An advisor to the United Nations on emergent tech and a consultant for MIT and various accelerators. Plus, he founded Ad Astra Stream Media as Doctor Intergalactic.
It’s that last bit that may be the most interesting and impactful role he’s ever played. Dr. Morey is on a mission to bring diversity to STEM. He’s doing so by creating multilingual (and fun) content to inspire the next generation of “Einsteins.” As a native of Puerto Rico, he leads by example because, in his words, “representation matters.”
Asked to say more about the multi-faceted lack of diversity problem, Morey added, “Only 2% Black females hold advanced degrees in STEM. That’s a numbers problem. In other cases, the diversity that is there, but we’re not pushing it forward. That’s a PR problem.”
Anything that’s worth doing is hard. If you want to go far, go together. If you want to go fast, go alone.Dr. José More
Who influences you?
Each time that Morey meets with today’s youth, he establishes rapport with them by asking who they follow on social media. Not surprisingly, the big influencers, major league athletes, and pop or rap stars make the top of the list. “However,” he said, “when you ask kids in inner-city schools which scientists or STEM influencers they follow, the answer is usually crickets.” That brings us back to the representation issue: there are several notable scientists that should be highlighted in schools during science class. NASA would not have achieved the first moon landing without the brilliant mathematicians, Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughaun, famously featured in the 2018 biopic, “Hidden Figures.”
As a society, we are bombarded by messages. We asked Dr. Morey which message he tunes out, “STEM is not for us – that’s the message I want them to tune out. There is nothing that disqualifies a diverse person from being in a STEM career. Representation matters: if you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”
If you question how a diverse person has struggled with equality, you need to steel yourself for the often heartbreaking answer. “It’s not easy,” opined Dr. Morey, “As you go through and shatter these ceilings, you become the lone representative of your community or one of only a few. It doesn’t get any better even if you make it to the C-suite.”
Undaunted, he perseveres, tightly wound to his “why” of changing the diversity statistics in STEM. And forged by resilience. Ad Astra is currently fundraising to expand the audience they can impact. To end the podcast on a positive note, we requested that Morey share some advice for other entrepreneurs, “For the most part, you’re trying to solve something that hasn’t been solved before. So you’re doing to stumble and find a lot of roadblocks. You always find the coalition of the willing – your tribe.”