Yesterday, the TechWomen delegation joined Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Evan Ryan and more than 130 girls from 30 secondary schools throughout Rwanda to participate in the U.S. Embassy in Kigali’s inaugural Girls Tech Fair, a career fair highlighting various educational and professional opportunities for women and girls in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
With representatives from government, as well as TechWomen Mentors representing leading innovative companies such as Twitter, Ericsson, and Juniper Networks, the fair was a brilliant example of the power of partnerships between the public and private sectors to effectively address pressing issues such as gender disparity and girls’ education. It also demonstrated the potential that can be unleashed by efforts to improve access to quality STEM education, especially for girls.
The delegation and students were welcomed by Ben Roode, Acting Public Affairs Officer, and Jessye Lapenn, Deputy Chief of Mission, who encouraged the students to take advantage of the many resources available to all at the U.S. Embassy, including information about educational exchange opportunities and STEM-related careers. Then, Evan Ryan (@ECA_AS) shared some words of encouragement to the students. “You represent some of the brightest minds that are aiming at the brightest stars in the sky,” she said. “Take the reins and succeed!” On that exhilarating note, the Girls Tech Fair officially kicked off.
Delegation members paired off at various stations and spoke with the students about their own career paths, the STEM fields that they are working in, and why they are passionate about these fields. These lively discussions prompted many questions from the curious students. At one station, a TechWomen Mentor advised, “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re in a class and are struggling, ask for help. This is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of strength.” At another station, a Mentor told a group of young girls, “Work together.”
In addition to these small group discussions about careers in STEM fields, at several stations, delegation members demonstrated various “tech toys” and played interactive technology games with the students, encouraging them to have fun with science and technology.
Eileen Brewer, a TechWomen Mentor from Symantec, spoke about her love for taking things apart in order to see their parts and learn how they work. Then, she showed the students a blow dryer and a laptop that were taken apart, eliciting much excitement from the students. The schoolgirls weren’t the only ones having fun. At another station, Evan Ryan launched a “Stomp Rocket” from the lawn, demonstrating principles of science and mathematics in action.
Though it was been pouring rain throughout the fair, nothing could dampen the energy and enthusiasm of the 130 students, all dressed in their school uniforms. With the encouragement and support of Evan Ryan, the U.S. Embassy in Kigali, and the TechWomen delegation, these girls had a fun afternoon and received great advice about pursuing careers in STEM.
We also encourage you to read the following blog posts about the trip:
- Day 1 in Rwanda: Reflections by Heather Ramsey, TechWomen Director
- Day 2 in Rwanda: TechWomen Discuss Gender Gap in STEM
- Day 3 in Rwanda: Mentors Share STEM Career Advice with Students at Innovative Girls’ School