On the morning of Thursday March 2nd, the TechWomen delegation in Morocco collaborated with Hello Women group at Orange Business Technopolis where they engaged in women’s empowerment and STEM leadership mentoring with university and secondary school young women. The event kicked off with introductory remarks from TechWomen fellow Ouafae Alami, followed up with a company presentation from Orange Business Managing Director Rym Sahnoun. TechWomen Project Manager Stephanie Gregory spoke next, providing an overview of the program model and impact, before introducing mentor Caitlyn Doyle and traveling fellow Lara Chikani to impart inspirational advice and insights on the benefits of mentorship. From there, the participants were placed into small groups with fellows and mentors to engage in speed mentoring centered on developing careers in STEM, leveraging individual strengths and talents, and finding empowerment through community.
“Mentorship is not about changing someone or telling someone what to do. It’s about helping people see their strenghts adn building their confidence. It’s about holding hands sometimes and, when needed, saying what could be done differently,” reflected mentor Shachi Patel as she closed out the event with a talk on her own journey through STEM and what the impact of having a female mentor can mean for one’s career path and continued development.
After a brief lunch, the delegation made its way to Salé to visit the state-of-the-art Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, where they were welcomed by the International Artificial Intelligence Center of Morocco (AIM). There, they received an introduction to the design and purpose of the AI program, before taking a brief tour of the AIM, complete with AI project demonstrations led by researchers and Ph.D. candidates.
“The whole time we’ve been in Morocco, what’s been exciting to me is to see all of these discussions everywhere we’ve gone being led by women,” observed mentor Jennifer Martin as the delegation met with senior fellows Mounia Boucetta and Nouzha Chekrouni of the Women’s Leadership Initiatives at the Policy Center for the New South on their next stop at the university.
From there, the delegation collaborated with university faculty to deliver a series of insightful, rapid-fire talks covering, among others, the topics of:
- “Why You Don’t Have to Love Math to Have a STEM Career,” by mentor Caitlin Doyle;
- “Turning Science Into Business,” by mentor Laura Draxler;
- “7 Reasons You Should Become a Product Owner,” by fellow Keremet Djoldoshbekova;
- “Digital Tools for Fact-Checking,” by fellow Dorothee Danedjo Fouba; and
- “Renewable Energy Technologies, No One Size Fits All,” by mentor Tim Sommerfield.
As the visit at Mohammed VI Polytechnic University came to an end, the delegation led breakout workshops followed by open networking. Topics covered included:
- “Teamwork, Diversity and Inclusion & Leadership,” led by mentor Samantha Raniere & fellow Queen Denchukwu;
- “Sustainability and Innovation,” led by mentor Timothy Sommerfield;
- “Strategic Planning and Project Management,” led mentor Shachi Patel; and
- “Tech & Humanities,” led by mentor Caitlin Doyle.
In the evening, the delegation headed off to the Center for National Trainings and Meetings (Centre de Formations et des Rencontres Nationales) to host workshops for university and secondary school-aged participants of the DigiGirlz and TechGirls programs. These initiatives mentor girls interested in STEM fields on utilizing technology to address challenges in their community.
Keynote remarks were delivered by fellow Emma Mphalele, founder and managing director of Kids Innovate Africa. Then followed a workshop on how to create a successful mentoring partnership led by mentor Samantha Raniere, with support from mentors Timothy Sommerfield, Katie Penn and Ramya Sankar, and fellows Emma Mphahlele and Lara Chikhani.
After this, the delegates and participants formed breakout group activities on the topics of:
- “Cybersecurity,” led by mentors Jennifer Martin, Erin Keeley, Lisa Faucher, Shachi Patel and fellow Zainab Saleem; and
- “CAD/3D printing,” led by mentor Laura Draxler and fellow Faten Khalfallah with support from mentors Mohna Dhomse, Radhika Dhomse and Caitlin Doyle, and fellow Keremet Zholdoshbekova.
To cap off the evening, Fellow Seloua Saoudi gave a presentation entitled “Solutions to Morocco’s Water Management Challenges.”