After a month of learning and exchange in the Bay Area, Emerging Leaders (ELs), along with more than 60 TechWomen mentors, boarded a plane to Washington, DC for the final days of TechWomen 2019.
At the U.S. Institute of Peace’s PeaceTech Lab, the World Bank Group, embassies and the U.S. Department of State, ELs and mentors met with and learned from distinguished women leaders in the public and private sectors. DC also provided an opportunity for reflection, as ELs learned about tools that will enable them to sustain and continue their TechWomen experience once they return home.
Building peace and prosperity
While some ELs visited embassies, day one brought the rest of the group to the U.S. Institute of Peace PeaceTech Lab, a facility at the intersection of technology, media and data that works to reduce violent conflict around the world. In breakout groups, ELs and mentors brought their diverse industry perspectives to brainstorm how we can build peace and work to effect lasting change. Later in the day, TechWomen mentors and the U.S. Department of State’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for Professional and Cultural Exchanges Susan Crystal visited with leaders of the World Bank Group for a day coordinated by Alicia Hammond, gender specialist at the World Bank Group. There, the group discussed issues on gender, innovation and digital development. Following a panel discussion, TechWomen Strategic Partnerships Advisor Anar Simpson moderated a round table conversation with preeminent women leaders, including Alexa Roscoe of the IFC and Caren Grown, Namita Datta, Luis Benveniste and Margaret Miller of the World Bank. Together, the group spoke about best practices for recruiting, retaining and supporting girls and women in STEM fields, both locally and abroad.
Day one ended with ELs gathering to reflect on their TechWomen experience and prepare for the next step — traveling back to their countries and reacclimating to life at home. Led by Birgit Debeerst, the discussion-based workshop focused on how fellows can effectively integrate their TechWomen experiences into their lives. Through a series of exercises, ELs were given the opportunity to reflect on the last five weeks, share their personal journeys and support one another in finding proactive solutions to remain motivated and action-oriented back home.
Learning from pioneers at the State Department
Day two kicked off in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room for a Women of Influence event held in partnership with the Women’s High Tech Coalition. IIE’s executive vice president Max Angerholzer opened the day, telling ELs, “We’re humbled by your success. We know you will return home, share your experiences in the United States and go on to change lives.” Ambassador Harriet Elam-Thomas followed, speaking to ELs and mentors about being a woman in the diplomatic service. She spoke about the hurdles of often being the only woman in the room, sharing her dedication for paving the way for future women to succeed in the diplomatic service. “Recognize and embrace your uniqueness,” she told the room. After, Lisa Fowlkes spoke to ELs and mentors about being the first woman and first person of color to become chief of the public safety and homeland security bureau for the FCC. “Many of you here have been, and will be, firsts,” she said.
The morning at the Kennedy Caucus Room concluded with a fireside chat with DreamWakers executive director Jillian Scott and Meredith Attwell Baker, president and CTO of the CTIA. Together they discussed the transformative nature of wireless communications, exploring how new technologies have given people all over the world access to tools that can transform their lives.
Emerging Leaders become fellows
Finally, it was time to go to the U.S. State Department for a day of panels, discussion and the much-anticipated certificate ceremony. Deputy Assistant Secretary Susan Crystal began the afternoon moderating a panel of pioneering women ambassadors who have served in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Ambassadors Makila James, Molly Phee, Joan Polaschik and Geeta Pasi each encouraged ELs to take risks in their careers, to fight for increased representation and to always seek out mentors and allies.
After learning from the Office of Alumni Affairs about ways to remain engaged with the Department of State upon return home, it was time for Emerging Leaders to receive certificates acknowledging their successful completion of the TechWomen program. One by one, Emerging Leaders went on stage, graduating from Emerging Leader to TechWomen fellow. The room was full of celebration as fellows reflected on the past five weeks – their challenges, their achievements and their new lifelong friendships.
The celebration continued in the Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Reception Room, where ELs and mentors were able to enjoy the reception room’s beautiful collection of art, furniture and historical artifacts. New fellows Ala’a Khoja of Libya, Pamela Mkhize of South Africa and Kyzzhibek Batyrkanova of Kyrgyzstan addressed the room of guests, sharing their TechWomen experience and takeaways: “If I could describe my experience in one word,” said Pamela,“it would be collaboration.”
Saying goodbye to #techwomen19
At a celebratory group dinner on our final evening in DC, it was time to say farewell. Although it was difficult to say goodbye, there was an anticipatory energy in the room, knowing the impact that will be created and lives that will be changed by all 106 women leaders. As they return to their home countries, we know they will continue to be agents of local and global change in the months and years to come. We look forward to continuing to share their stories.