TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs. Its mission is to empower, connect, and support the next generation of women leaders in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) by providing them opportunities to advance their careers and become role models for women and girls in their communities. Each year for the past six years, TechWomen fellows from Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East have traveled to the Bay Area to participate in a month-long mentorship program that includes networking events and professional development workshops. These women then take what they learned home to embark on new projects and ventures.
Ramya has been working with EBAYS since summer 2016, teaching energy and environment curricula both in-school and after school. She first became involved with TechWomen as a cultural mentor after a colleague told her about the program. She would arrange activities and social events for the visiting fellows. Later, she became an Impact Adviser for women from Kyrgyzstan, who visited the Bay Area in fall 2016. Ramya jumped at the opportunity to join this spring’s delegation trip and check in on the work being done by her new Kyrgyz friends.
Over the course of six days, Ramya and her fellow delegates explored a new country and culture, and provided information and support for hundreds of burgeoning entrepreneurs and over 1,500 students. They sat in on the new Lean In Circle, founded by TechWomen fellow Nazira Sheraly, in Bishkek, the nation’s first. They visited a high school robotics fair and hosted a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities in STEM careers
A highlight of the trip was the Silicon Valley Symposium in Bishkek, the capital. The event was attended by over 300 people from Kyrgyzstan’s IT and business community, including Kyrgyz officials and U.S. Ambassador Sheila Gwaltney. Ramya hosted a breakout session titled "Science, Data, and Community: How Tech Has Helped Provide Access to Data, and Why It Matters" about the work she does with EBAYS empowering young people to use science, data, and tech to improve life in their communities.
“One of the best parts of this delegation trip was being able to meet women halfway across the world and connect on a professional and personal level," says Ramya. "While there are certainly unique challenges that are faced by women in Kyrgyzstan, the similarities in what we are all striving toward underlines the unique sisterhood that is created by a program like TechWomen.”
The Hall’s programs, curricula, and exhibits clearly have a reach that spans the globe. Ramya Sankar’s involvement in the TechWomen program is only one example of how we affect STEM education in our local, national, and international communities.