By Joanne Liou, Communications and Impact Specialist
As TechWomen delegates travel to participating countries, it is not only an opportunity to gain understanding of women in STEM and girls education, but also the status of different social aspects. Representatives from the U.S. Consulate in Almaty provided a briefing on U.S.-Kazakhstan relations, in which they are celebrating 25 years of innovation, friendship and partnership. “Twenty-five years ago, when Kazakhstan broke off from the Soviet Union, the U.S. was the first country to recognize Kazakhstan’s independence,” Political Officer Tim O’Connor said.
Consul General Mark Moody and Public Affairs Officer Chaz Martin also spoke about women and girls in Kazakhstan, specifically women’s rights, human rights and social stigmas, as well as the commitment of the U.S. to support Kazakhs address local and global issues.
Visit with MOST (Young Entrepreneurs Club) and TechGarden
The delegation’s first stop was Almaty’s Tech Garden, a place that embodies the spirit of innovation and development reminiscent of Silicon Valley. An initiative of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the main purpose of TechGarden is to develop innovative ideas that meet international standards, Sanzhar Kettebekov, CEO of TechGarden, said. “We cannot copy Silicon Valley, but we can make a start-up hub.” TechGarden provides support for entrepreneurs and startups with connections to research institutions, state and private investment, and other resources.
Addressing Kazakhstan’s Young Entrepreneurs Club – an audience of new and veteran entrepreneurs, Sheila Casey of the U.S. Department of State, explained how TechWomen is creating a network of women in STEM because “we know that there is a low percent in the US and in other countries. We hope that if we can increase this network, increase the number of women in STEM, we can improve relationships between the US and other countries. Via TechWomen, Americans get to learn about Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other countries that participate, and as a result, support more women to reach a position of power.”
Before introducing TechWomen’s first panel discussion of the delegation, TechWomen Director Arezoo Riahi noted that “there is nothing more rewarding and authentic than meeting each other in person. It’s about hearing from those in the room.”
Panelists shared their experience and path to the STEM fields and addressed questions from the audience about work-life balance and women in the workforce. “Companies with women on the board or in top-level management are financially more successful than companies without,” mentor Beth Steinberg of Felicis Ventures said. The untapped potential of women remains a lost opportunity for economic growth and development. Women’s participation in the workforce promotes productivity, enterprise development at all levels, as well as enhances business management and returns on investment.
The event, which was open to the public, attracted an engaging audience of males and females curious about the success of women in startups and how to attract more women to STEM. After the panel discussion, attendees had an opportunity to continue the conversation with TechWomen delegates in world café sessions on design thinking, bringing a product to market and scaling a business. Redesigning the gift-giving experience, mentor Jeannice Fairrer Samani of Nextogen led an exercise to demonstrate design thinking.
What’s hot in American tech?
Switching gears from entrepreneurs to students, the delegation concluded the day at Turan University. Diana Tsoy (2015 fellow of Kazakhstan) of Teniz LLC, Marie Carter of Yahoo and Tina Shakour of Cisco presented trends in tech, social media, work culture and what is happening in their respective industries in Silicon Valley.