In order for women to reap the economic benefits of a career in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), we must overcome the cultural norms preventing women from entering and advancing in STEM professions. As a 2015 participant of the State Department’s TechWomen program, Bahara Nurmetova of Turkmenistan, points out, “Now we are in an age where technologies are rocking the world, yet in my region, people continue to think that STEM fields are primarily for men.” Providing emerging leaders with American mentors in STEM fields sheds light on the gender-based career limitations women in tech face all over the world.
From Africa, the Middle East and -- for the first time this year -- Central Asia, nearly 100 TechWomen participants came to the United States to add to the growing network of female leaders in the STEM fields. From working in leading social media and renewable resource companies in Silicon Valley to exploring the Bay Area with cultural mentors, the TechWomen completed a five week-long mentorship program to increase their knowledge and skills and to empower female science and tech leaders for years to come.
The American mentor participants and partner organizations are the backbone of the TechWomen network, and mentors gain as much from the experience as they give. Professional mentor Larissa Shapiro from Mozilla describes TechWomen as “more or less a life-changer for me. The combination of getting to know both the emerging leaders who I have worked closely with and the community as a whole has been a revelatory experience.”
In order for TechWomen to have a lasting impact beyond the participants and mentors, emerging leaders break into country groups and formulate action plans that address key issues in their communities. At the TechWomen Action Plan Workshop hosted by Theranos, emerging leaders transformed concepts into impactful strategies that support other women working in STEM fields. For example, Team Egypt developed a “She is Back” initiative aimed at helping women re-enter the work force. These Action Plans reveal the power of the TechWomen network to benefit women in the participants’ local communities, even if they did not engage directly in the program.
Building this network of more than 330 established and emerging female leaders extends TechWomen’s impact far beyond the duration of the program, creating opportunities that inspire innovation and elevate economic impact. With the help of mentors and partner companies, the State Department is connecting the world’s women tech leaders and arming them for success, as well as encouraging them to become role models for others in their communities.
- Learn more about the TechWomen program.
- Find out more about the action plans created and pitched by this year's TechWomen emerging leaders.
- Follow Assistant Secretary Ryan @ECA_AS and the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs @ECAatState on Twitter.