A group of five women from Africa taking part in a federal program that supports women leaders in science, technology, engineering and math fields visited Menlo Park this week to share their stories.
The women, all professionals with at least two years of experience in STEM-related careers at home, are members of TechWomen, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which was set up in 2011 to assist in peaceful relations with other countries. Currently, 20 nations in the Middle East, Africa and Central and South Asia partner with TechWomen, which also sends U.S. residents overseas. In total, 99 women — roughly five from each partner nation — were picked for this year’s program, which partners with U.S. companies for training.
At an event inside the downtown library Monday evening, the women discussed their goals during the five-week residency, accompanied by their mentor, Eileen Brewer, director of enterprise security at Symantec. At the end of their visit, which included sightseeing in San Francisco and concludes with a visit to New York City, the women — who hail from Nigeria, Kenya, Algeria, Sierra Leone and Tunisia — will go back to their home countries and put these goals into action, with continued support of their mentor companies.
Mide Ayeni, who works in clean tech in Nigeria, said last year she started a recycling company, which is still a novel concept in the country. Her goal is to learn how to properly grow her business when she returns home.
“I want to learn how to scale and sustain my business … (and) how to work with a lean budget,” Ayeni said.
At the end of the program, there is a competition regarding their planned projects, with the winning group receiving $2,500 in seed funding. While the five women from each nation work with different mentors while here, they stay in communication and will collaborate on the same project after they return home, Brewer said.