Guest post by Asal Ghanim, 2014 Emerging Leader from Jordan
“TechWomen brings the best and the brightest women from around the world together to exchange ideas, perspectives and hopefully, LinkedIn accounts,” said Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs in her opening remarks of 2014 TechWomen program. She continued: “We’re connecting the women of the world and arming them for success, with the help of mentors and partner companies, we’re providing women in tech access and opportunities to advance their careers, pursue their dreams and become role models for women and girls in their communities.”
One year ago, I arrived in San Francisco to participate in the TechWomen program. My expectations were high, and the program certainly lived up to them. Now that a year has passed, I’m more confident to write about it as I have seen it change my life, both professionally and personally. Below are some of many reasons:
1 – It’s grounded on mentorship.
The importance of mentorship is often overlooked or unnoticed; it’s rarely an essential part of our educational systems and development process. Whether you’re building a career or starting a business, having a mentor along the way gets you up the learning curve faster and helps you make the right decisions with fewer failures. The TechWomen program emphasizes the value of mentorship and acts towards it, creating a system where not only you have a professional mentor who has extensive experience in your field, but also, a cultural one. I realized how important it is to actually have someone you’re expected to be asking lots of questions — sometimes silly ones —and be totally comfortable with it, and even being challenged to think further and expand your goals.
2 – It connects professional women from around the world.
Being part of a network made of strong and accomplished women from around the world, not only opens business opportunities and allows for great friendships, but also, gives an assuring sense of encouragement. The women I met during the program are nothing but superheroes; they were moms, professionals, entrepreneurs and scientists. They fought the norms in their communities, overcame social barriers and the despair of conflict zones to become success stories.
Being one of the youngest participants, I find myself very lucky to have had this opportunity at an earlier stage of my life. Each one of my fellow emerging leaders inspired me in a way; I learned so much from them and was astonished by their strength and determination of accepting nothing less than remarkable success.
3 – It shines the light on common issues facing women in tech.
Learning about the common issues women face in the workplace in general is essential in addressing them; problems facing women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are quite common in different parts of the world considering the fact that those are usually male dominated fields.
Sharing stories, opinions and concerns by professional women with different experiences and levels of seniority highlighted these challenges and how we can tackle them.
It’s been well documented that women are underrepresented in tech and often face problems trying to maintain balance between work and home as they move on in life. In trying to come up with ways to address this, I again came to realize how important it is to have a successful female role model to refer to, and be aware of when it’s necessary to speak up for your rights.
4 – It empowers women to advocate for their rights.
The TechWomen program creates an atmosphere where participants are given the chance and the opportunity to unleash their true potential and develop high professional goals. This is mainly owed to the professional training at the host companies, the time spent with the TechWomen mentors and the high level events that the emerging leaders get to attend during the time of the program. This combination of activities sums up to raise awareness in issues facing women in tech, it arms the participants with the right tools and knowledge to become leaders in their fields and gives them power and credibility to work for a change, stand up for their rights and support women and girls in their communities.
5 – It’s a turning point in the Emerging Leaders’ career path.
Once you’re a TechWomen alumna, your professional career takes a new turn, mainly because of the huge reservoir of information and connections you amass during the program. Looking at my fellow emerging leaders and what they’ve been able to achieve upon their return to their home countries gives me a great pleasure. They have not only been able to change their lives and secure a better future for their families, but also, have become role models in their communities.
I’m honored to be part of this network. I’m also favorably burdened by the immense responsibility of paying this forward and continuing to find ways to support women and girls in STEM.
Best of luck to the 2015 Emerging Leaders as they start their mentorship this month!