Sharing the Best of Both Worlds: Empowering TechWomen and Let Girls Learn

Posted by Becca Bycott
November 2, 2016
TechWomen empowers, connects and supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). [[Organizational Development & Principal Consultant at Linkage, Inc.]

Sharing a story on social media creates opportunities for new and powerful connections between different people, places, and organizations. When we post a photo, tweet or use a certain hashtag, we become part of a legacy in how a story will be told again and again, until the world listens.

In October, the world was listening to a very important story, one that the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs shares every day: the story of how empowering women and girls through educational and professional opportunities changes lives and communities. Two terrific programs -- TechWomen and the Let Girls Learn U.S. Exchange Program -– happened to be in Washington, D.C. at the same time, and it was exciting to witness how they added momentum to an ongoing global effort to celebrate and support women and girls, online and in person.

TechWomen brings the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East to the United States for several intensive weeks of mentoring and professional networking with leading tech companies like Adobe, Google and LinkedIn. It was an extraordinary year for the 2016 cohort, including an announcement that TechWomen is now open to women in Pakistan and an inspiring discussion with American executive, scientist, and former NASA astronaut Mary Ellen Weber.

The Let Girls Learn U.S. Exchange Program brought Liberian and Moroccan girls who had participated in Peace Corps initiatives and State Department programs like TechGirls, the Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange & Study, the Pan-Africa Youth Leadership Program, and the English Access Microscholarship Program to Washington to meet with officials, professionals, and fellow students dedicated to empowering women through education. This exchange was an extension of First Lady Michelle Obama’s trip to Morocco and Liberia this summer in support of the Let Girls Learn initiative.

Actress Meryl Streep, left, and Morocco’s Karima Lakouz, an alumna of the State Department’s TechGirls and English Access Programs, shared insights about their experiences with Let Girls Learn during International Day of the Girl at the White House. Both appear in “We Will Rise.” [State Department Photo]

During their time in D.C., the girls participated in a Peace Corps “Chat and Chai” with American girls and visited universities to meet with international students. Their experiences culminated with a special panel and screening of the new CNN Film We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World with the First Lady and Meryl Streep on October 11, International Day of the Girl. The documentary featured the girls, which brought many of us in the audience to tears because it relayed emotive truths about the challenges girls face to go to school and support their families and communities.

Over the past two and half years, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with these groups of girls and women on several occasions to discuss how they can use a range of digital tools to engage and educated other people around the world on STEM issues. One of the main things I always emphasize to them during our social media trainings is how they are a piece of this ongoing story about how women and girls are helping  redefine our world. They do this through what they relay on social media, but also through their projects, ideas and friendships. I kept thinking about that in October when I saw the fantastic photos, ideas, and the beautiful film the White House debuted, all abuzz on social media. A collective story was growing bigger and brighter.

The 2016 TechGirls learned how to share their #LetGirlsLearn stories with selfies and other updates on social media during a training with ECA’s Becca Bycott and Elaine Clayton. [State Department Photo]

How do you become a part of this story? Here are some ways you can consider joining this global narrative:

  • Add your voice to the conversation: Go online and discover all the testimonies about how women and girls have benefited from programs like #TechWomen16 and #LetGirlsLearn. Watch #WeWillRise. Explore the hashtags, visit the websites, and share your own thoughts of support through your networks.
     
  • Become a mentor: TechWomen Mentors -- women living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area who are passionate about women’s empowerment and committed to training and inspiring the next generation of women leaders in STEM -- are an integral part of the program. Learn more.
     
  • Find out how the State Department supports women’s empowerment through exchange programs and help women and girls take advantage of these opportunities through your organizations, your embassies, and your personal networks.

TechWomen and Let Girls Learn are two programs that demonstrate how women who benefit from mentorship programs go back to their communities to support girls there, and that girls who get these opportunities grow up to be successful women. We look forward to the partnering with more people to create and to share these amazing stories of young women leaders so they can inspire others.

About the Author: Becca Bycott serves as a Social Media Manager withthe Public Affairs and Strategic Communications team in the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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