Day two provided mentors and fellows an opportunity to learn more about women and girls in Uzbekistan and meet the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs.
The day began with a U.S. Embassy briefing and Q&A session led by Public Affairs Officer John Brown. There, fellows and mentors discussed the leading obstacles – and the leading opportunities – for women and girls in Uzbekistan. Speaking to the group, fellows of Uzbekistan Shodiyabegim Bakhtiyorzoda and Munira Begmuratova explained that women and girls need more freedom to get the education required to succeed in STEM fields and beyond. They are often faced with choosing between work and family, complicating their path to pursuing their career goals. At the briefing, mentors and fellows committed to sharing their advice and expertise with women and girls, encouraging them to follow their career paths despite the challenges they face.
Meeting Uzbekistan’s young entrepreneurs
At the afternoon session at the Center for Advanced Technologies, mentor Rekha Pai-Kamath addressed students and young entrepreneurs, giving them tips on turning research into business: “Try to be proven wrong – and be ready to pivot,” she said.
Emphasizing that creating a thriving business takes iteration and dedication, Rehka left the students with a quote from Thomas Edison: “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”
The day continued with a session on pitch training led by mentors Eileen Brewer and Elaina Tia. Together, they shared the key elements of a convincing and compelling pitch, using examples to show students how to illustrate a problem with an evocative and relatable story. “Explain how big the problem is,” said Elaina. “How many people are impacted? What will happen in the future if nothing changes?” After learning more about pitch flow, research and target markets, it was time to break out into small groups for speed mentoring sessions. Together, students brainstormed a problem in their community and created a pitch that aimed to solve it.
One energetic group of students wanted to bring new technologies to Tashkent with an app-based bike rental system. Using research and personal experience, they concluded that bike rental is in demand, efficient, lowers pollution and brings emerging technologies to their city. With cycling culture increasing in Tashkent, the students hoped to cater to a new trend that serves both university students and city inhabitants.
After refining their pitch during speed mentoring, the team got to test their skills in front of the audience and gather feedback from mentors. They began with a compelling story, demonstrated consumer demand and showed how they would deliver their product. Other student teams also had a chance to pitch, receiving valuable feedback from mentors and learning how to make their product more desirable to potential investors.
2016 fellow Elena Selezneva concluded the day, moderating a fireside chat with mentor Beth Steinberg, discussing what investors look for. Beth shared that she first considers the company’s people, looking at their passion and integrity: “I can’t overemphasize how important the team aspect is in investing,” she said. “Having a high-quality team is incredibly important when making an investment.” She encouraged students to develop a growth mindset and work to create a passionate team with high integrity.
A bright future for women in STEM
The day ended at a reception hosted by U.S. Embassy Chargé D’Affaires Alan Meltzer. Speaking in front of mentors and fellows, local women in STEM and city leaders, he emphasized the importance of including women in the country’s progress: “When women are fully integrated into the government, all of Uzbekistan will benefit,” he said. Mentor Hosai Omarkhil shared her TechWomen experience with reception attendees, saying that TechWomen didn’t just address her own personal and professional struggles, but also the challenges women face globally. Fellow Saida Yusupova followed, speaking about the future of women in tech in Uzbekistan. After spending a day meeting young students and women eager to innovate, Saida’s words rang true: “For women in STEM,” she said, “this is just the beginning.”
Follow the hashtag #twuz on Twitter for more content from the TechWomen delegation trip to Uzbekistan!