TechWomen is a program designed to empower the next generation of women and girls by providing access to opportunities that support a career in technology. Emerging women leaders in technology sectors from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions engage in a mentorship and exchange program at American leading companies. In 2012, 41 Emerging Leaders participated from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia, and Yemen.
The TechWomen team is made up of diverse women who have found success in a variety of technical careers. For five weeks, they share their experiences, challenges, and best methods. The first three weeks focus on professional work and cultural enrichment ,while the last three involve panel discussions and breakout sessions centered on leadership skills, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
This year, Google hosted one such workshop exploring innovative techniques and approaches for engaging young girls in male-dominated fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The presentations were accompanied by female leaders from Techbridge, MAGIC (More Active Girls in Computing), Telecentre.org Foundation, and Iridscent.
After five weeks, the women return home with new-found vigor. Thekra Dwairi from Jordan says that before TechWomen, she’d never shared her idea to start an NGO, Edugirl. “Most NGOs focus on university aged students. I want to focus on girls in neglected areas who get married early, who are isolate and who don’t have anyone who is fighting for them.” Thekra is currently working on an action strategy to promote and fund her Edugirl initiative.
Rayane Hazimeh will soon launch ‘Nora Techadventures,’ an online animation series that features dynamic characters who use STEM skills to explore technology and embark on new challenges. She explains how TechWomen helped her re-define her vision, “It is now my personal mission to live a life that positively and valuably impacts other young girls.”
Loubna Lahmici went on to create the first coupon website in Algeria. Her site, Dzreduc.com, is transforming consumer practices in Algeria by providing discounted printable and mobile coupons to local consumers. Lahmici notes, “My experience…gave me insights into cutting-edge technologies, connecting me with counterparts, and opening up new opportunities for the growth of my business.” Within the first three weeks, the site had registered more than 13,000 visits, 800 subscribers, and 500 downloaded coupons.
The experience also inspires the TechWomen team. “I am in such awe of the bravery, openness, energy and ambition of the Emerging Leaders,” states Heather Ramsey, Director of Strategic Partnerships. “This experience is not easy, but the women take it on with grace, tenacity, a spirit of curiosity and a desire to build real understanding. I am so grateful to be a part of TechWomen!”
Creative Commons Love: Matt Shalvatis and Anita Borg Institute on Flickr.com