The technology sector has traditionally been dominated by men, but the world has begun to see that trend slowly shift. Now, as more and more women are finding their way into the industry, a love of technology is also becoming a tool for cultural exchange.
Fast Company reports that a new program through the U.S. Department of State plans to bring several teenage girls from the Middle East halfway around the world to Silicon Valley.
Information technology has taken on a growing importance in the Middle East. Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Egypt have thriving technology sectors. The region has also seen social media transform into an important platform for addressing social issues.
Now the State Department's TechGirls hopes to build on the recent success of its similar TechWomen program. TechGirls will bring 25 Arabic-speaking girls to meet with representatives from some of the largest and most influential companies in Silicon Valley. Though the participants are still uncertain, last year's TechWomen met with companies like Google and Intel.
"Being a woman in the field of technology is not always easy," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the TechWomen participants when she introduced the TechGirls program, according to UPI. "Being a woman in any field is not always easy, but there are so many opportunities in technology that we just have to forge ahead."
Clinton explained that the program would include a strong educational component as well.
But like all cultural exchange programs, the benefits of TechGirls are hardly meant to end when the month is up. The companies that are participating expect that the girls they meet with will likely go on to play important roles in the technology industry.
Meanwhile for the girls, many could eventually have the opportunity for international internships. Others will be able to use the connections they make to progress further in their home countries.
But perhaps the most important opportunity for everyone involved is simply the chance to meet people of similar interests from such drastically different backgrounds. Cisco's Olivia Shen Green noted, "A geek is a geek wherever you are." The participants of TechGirls will get to see that firsthand.
Also read what Career Training USA's female interns and trainees in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors have to say about their experiences.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.