Talented women in the tech field sometimes have a hard time finding the mentoring and support they need. The TechWomen initiative is working to change that by helping women use their tech skills, innovative ideas and leadership ability to transform their lives and their countries’ economies.
Giving women better choices
TechWomen, a partnership between Silicon Valley companies and the State Department, helps women who excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to network with like-minded U.S. women. The participants go on to inspire other women and girls in their home countries.
The program has paired 156 women from 16 countries in the Middle East and Africa with mentors in Silicon Valley. This approach has created a “network of women in tech supporting each other,” Heather Ramsey, senior director of TechWomen, told FastCompany. The 2015 program will expand to include women from Central Asia.
Participants spend a month with women mentors at high-tech U.S. firms. The goal, said TechWomen mentor Jennifer Sherman, vice president at software company Aptean, is “to figure out a way to give women better choices, and to allow any path they choose to be an acceptable path worthy of our praise and honor.”
“Women’s progress represents human progress, because no society can succeed if it leaves half of its population behind.”
TechWomen inspired Nihal Fares to adopt a people-centered approach with her own company in Egypt. “It’s not just about the technology,” she said. “It’s the way you treat people.”
Similarly, her experience with TechWomen emboldened Algeria’s Baya Chekired. “Things that in the past sounded impossible to achieve for me are now doable,” she said.
At an Equal Futures Partnership event in September, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stressed that gender equality is more than a moral imperative. “Women’s progress represents human progress, because no society can succeed if it leaves half of its population behind,” Kerry said. “And in the United States, believe me, we make this commitment without any arrogance whatsoever, knowing that we still have miles to travel.”