Aaiman Aamir is a community builder from Toronto whose passion for diversity and inclusion in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) led her to writing Our Stories in STEM, a children’s book about 40 Canadian women working in STEM fields today, illustrated by 40 Canadian artists. In 2017 she joined the Greenhouse Social Impact Incubator where she started a research project to figure out why only 22% of STEM professionals are women. Three years later, she wrote her book to inspire young Canadian girls to pursue careers in STEM.
My first job ever was… delivering newspapers on a paper route of 50 houses at 12 years old. Every weekend at 9am, a City of Mississauga car would drop bundles of newspapers and flyers on my driveway. I’d have to take apart each paper, put one of each flyer inside, package it in plastic, and leave it on people’s porches. They were heavy, took me hours, and were a nightmare to deliver in the snow; but I would stay focused thinking about all the things I could do from the money I was about to make. At the end of the month I received a check for $50… that was a pretty rude awakening.
I decided to be an entrepreneur because… seeing my family struggle in traditional jobs as part of the working class, and how often the amount and quality of work they put in would never equal financial stability, it seemed like the only promising route to financial independence based on the stories of other entrepreneurs around me. Apart from that, I’ve always had a deep desire to do something — whether that’s building community, making things, or volunteering. The desire to make an impact on the world has always driven me to do more. Acting outside the traditional norms of what society expects from a middle-class immigrant Muslim girl is an extra plus.
We need inclusion and representation in STEM because… we need inclusive, equitable, and innovative solutions to solve complex global problems. Diversity leads to better problem-solving, fresh perspectives that are a better representation of the global population, creates equal opportunities, expands the talent pool, and is imperative for long-term economic growth.
My proudest accomplishment is… the first time I ran a workshop with little children, introducing female role models through play-based learning. The little girls realizing that game designers and architects and engineers can be women — highly accomplished women doing things they love — was a big win for me. It made me realize that small-scale efforts can have large-scale impacts on young children’s lives.
My boldest move to date was… signing a big quote with a design studio to create the branding for my business. It was the first time I decided, ‘yeah, I’m doing this. I believe in this project and I’ll invest in myself to make it happen.’
I surprise people when I tell them… I was a horrible student who almost failed out of school many times. People often correlate traditional success with grades, but anything I’ve achieved in my life has never been from my academic performance. It’s okay if you failed, none of my employers have ever given it a second glance. Especially in the entrepreneurship world — it’s all about your willingness to self-learn and follow through.
My best advice to people hoping to become an author is… number 1: finish your book. Number 2: be very careful before signing any publishing deals; they can sound promising in the beginning but can often be very predatory in the fine print. Weigh the pros and cons between self-publishing and hybrid-traditional publishing.
My biggest setback was… not having the funds to bring ideas to life, or the knowledge of how government funding, grants, and bursaries could be applicable for me. This led to a lot of missed opportunities that could have resulted in catapulting my business much faster.
I overcame it by… asking for help. Founder support groups, especially the Female Founders Fund, are a great resource to get help from those who are looking to give it. There’s nothing wrong with letting people know that you have no idea what you’re doing when it comes to certain areas of operating a business — vulnerability is a strength.
If I had an extra hour in the day, I would… make more things! Maintaining a balance between my business, my full-time work, my relationships, and other life necessities means a lot of the hobbies I enjoy have to take a backseat. With another hour I’d love to be painting, drawing, and making crafts.
If you googled me, you still wouldn’t know… my real story. There are versions of my journey, so far, that I choose to put out into the world as they pertain to my career or my book, but I keep the full version about my struggles, abuse, and mental health issues close to me. It helps me maintain a choice between who I choose to be vulnerable to. That’s the best part about stories, you can choose how you tell it. Or on a lighter note: you wouldn’t know that I used to be a Paint Nite instructor.
I stay inspired by… the incredible women around me. Those that are achieving great things, along with those who are overcoming their barriers and surviving. The power and resilience that women hold within themselves is astounding.
The future excites me because… the youth are curious and informed. Now, more than ever, I see the next generation being the torchbearers for social, political, economic, and environmental change.
My next step is… to use my platform to bring more stories of every day role models to young children. Stories of political activists, environmental leaders, or everyday folks trying to live — stories have the power to change the world. I want to be part of that change in a teeny tiny way.