After an enriching day learning about Rwanda’s history and culture and reconnecting with Emerging Leaders, the TechWomen delegation attended a networking reception at Hôtel des Mille Collines with entrepreneurs and professionals from government, the private sector, and civil society to discuss entrepreneurship in Rwanda and women’s role and potential in this space.
Speakers headlining the event included Alex Ntale (@antale), Director of the Rwanda ICT Chamber; Clare Akamanzi (@cakamanzi), Chief Operating Officer of the Rwanda Development Board; and Sheila Casey (@SheilaDCasey) from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The event also featured a panel with GIRA ICT’s Nadia Uwamahoro, Rwanda Air’s Ester Mbabazi, and TechWomen Mentors Erin Keeley and Ruth Davis, who shared their personal stories about their experiences in STEM fields. The panel was moderated by VISA Rwanda’s Lucy Mbabazi (@LucyMbabazi).
Addressing the more than 200 people in attendance, the speakers discussed the professional landscape in STEM fields in Africa and solutions to the global gender gap in STEM education and careers. Jill Von Berg, a 2013 Professional Mentor and Vice President of Information Technology at Calix, talked about the need to change misconceptions about women and STEM. She explained:
On the one hand we have the very nature of women—we are social and team players—and on the other hand we have the very nature of STEM. Rather than change the nature of women, we need to change societal norms to allow women to thrive…We have come far, but the question is, “Have we come far enough?”
Jill’s speech was just one of the many inspiring discussions of the night which emphasized the importance of closing the gender gap in STEM, not just in Rwanda, but globally. After the reception, several members of the delegation said they felt a deepened sense of understanding and passion toward mentoring other women and girls and nurturing the pipeline for future generations of women leaders in STEM fields.