WiSci2015: Chipping Away at the Tech Gender Gap


By Amy Wasserbach, Partnerships Coordinator, Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, U.S. Department of State

 

Anabella Isaro, from Rwanda, is a second-year student at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, where she is majoring in Computer Science.  When she graduates, she will be a new competitor in the global workforce; armed with the necessary tools to succeed. This summer, Anabella is sharing her knowledge with 120 high school students from eight countries in Africa and the United States attending the first-ever Women in Science (WiSci) Girls STEAM camp at her high school alma mater, the Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda.rwanda

“I am so inspired and honored to mentor these girls that are one day going to change the world,” said Annabella about the opportunity to share her experience from her first year studies in the United States and advising on how to make the most of local resources for girls and women interested in technology in Rwanda.  She, along with eleven other camp counselors, will mentor these students as they learn valuable skills through a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Design, and Math (STEAM) curriculum, all within a unique cross-cultural setting.

Part of the Let Girls Learn initiative, championed by First Lady Michelle Obama, the WiSci camp is organized by the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships at the U.S. Department of State, in partnership with Microsoft 4Afrika, Intel, AOL Charitable Foundation, the United Nations Foundation’s Girl Up campaign, and the Rwanda Girls Initiative, with support from Meridian International Center, the Rwandan Ministry of Education, the African Leadership Academy, UNESCO and the Global Entrepreneurship Network.

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The 120 girls selected to attend the camp will learn valuable skills in coding, computer science, and robotics directly from Microsoft and Intel employees, and have the opportunity to put those skills to work by creating video game platforms, experimenting with a makers’ faire, and more.  UNESCO will expose the girls to social entrepreneurship and the transformative power of mobile technologies.  Women in tech fields will speak to the students about their own career paths, opportunities in the workforce, and how women can fill those roles.  Local artisans will spend an afternoon with the girls to share their stories of entrepreneurship and skills in arts and design. Girl Up will coordinate leadership activities to empower the girls to make a difference in their communities upon return.  The combination of these activities will aim to inspire the girls to create and achieve goals that they may have not considered otherwise.

By taking classes and studying with girls from a variety of cultures, the girls may also perceive STEAM subjects in a new light.  Girls from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States will have the opportunity to foment lasting friendships. The girls will return home with new skills and knowledge in STEAM topics, increased cultural and international awareness, and a network of peers around the world.

Through programs like this, the State Department hopes to chip away at the tech gender gap and increase opportunities for economic growth for girls like Anabella and their communities.

“These girls have big dreams and potential, the same dreams that I had 2 years ago when I was in their position. We are all girls interested in technology that will put an end to poverty; provide better health, finance and social services; and will change Rwanda and other countries like Rwanda from developing countries to developed countries,” Anabella said.

To learn more about the WiSci Girls STEAM camp, visit http://www.africa.co/wisci/, follow #wisci2015 on social media, or contact wiscicamp@africa.co.