International Women’s Month is an exciting time here at ZEDEDA. However, being a Silicon Valley founded startup, we fall into the tech industry bucket where women are trailing in numbers behind their male counterparts. As of 2020, women make up only 25% of the tech industry workforce and only 12% are women of color.
To bridge the gap between opportunities for women and the elusive tech workforce, ZEDEDA has partnered with TechWomen, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. TechWomen is a mentorship and exchange program which empowers, connects, and supports the next generation of female leaders specializing in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). With over 900 women having participated in the program since it began in 2011, these “Emerging Leaders” come from 22 countries across Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East. These women are not only exposed to industry mentors and companies, but also get a chance to explore the rich cultural history of the Bay Area.
Our Director of Product Engineering, Kathy Giori, is a veteran mentor and took on another professional mentorship role with the TechWomen program this year. She was paired with two Emerging Leaders who specialize in EdTech: Ainura Mitalipova from Kyrgyz Republic and Leonida Soi from Kenya. These Emerging Leaders will be spending the next few weeks with Kathy learning about ZEDEDA and how we’ve modernized edge orchestration to enable improved digital transformation in the industry. We were fortunate to have both Ainura and Leonida come to our San Jose headquarters, where we were able to deep dive into their stories.
Ainura, who comes from the southern part of Kyrgyz Republic, teaches mathematics and informatics to medical students at a local university. In addition to Kyrgyz, she speaks Russian, Turkish, Uzbek, German, and English, and has said that learning languages has been an important part of her upbringing and education. She is one of the first women to participate in the TechWomen program from the southern part of the country, since the bigger cities up north tend to provide better resources. “English is a problem,” she mentions, stating that smaller towns don’t traditionally teach English, which limits women in opportunities outside of the country, such as TechWomen. She hopes to bring back the skills she’s learning from the program and empower her students and other women back home to also participate.
Leonida initially heard about the program from Kenyan alumni. “They come back after spending time with TechWomen mentors and they seem completely different; the things they’ve accomplished and the way they think about things, particularly when it comes to solving issues in our country – it’s incredible,” she says. Leonida teaches computer science to high school students and hopes to bring back the open source technology she’s learning about to enhance her students’ skill sets and create better opportunities for women in her country.
ZEDEDA believes we need to empower women to succeed in the tech industry, and the TechWomen program is an important part of doing so. As we take a step back from the “hustle and bustle” of Silicon Valley, we see that innovation stems from women across the globe, each with unique experiences, backgrounds, and skill sets. We are proud to consider ourselves the leaders in orchestration for the distributed edge, and even more proud to help these Emerging Leaders as they take the next steps in their career and propel the tech world forward.