TechGirls visit the FCC!

On July 12, 2012, the FCC hosted a program for TechGirls, a U.S. Department of State initiative sponsoring an international exchangeTechGirls program designed to empower young girls to pursue careers in the science and technology sectors.  

We welcomed an impressive group of 25 young women between the ages of 15-17 from eight Middle Eastern and Northern African (MENA) countries, including, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian Territories, Tunisia and Yemen.  It is difficult to say who was more inspired by the visit, the young women or the FCC staff and interns who had the honor of interacting with them.

All of the girls went through a rigorous application process and those who were selected were truly outstanding. At their young age, many have already taken robotics courses as well as computer classes. Chosen first by their schools and then selected among applicants by U.S. Embassies abroad, the girls took part in a three-week program, that included an interactive camp where they learned how to harness their potential in the science and technology sectors through hands-on skill development, in computer programming, robotics, mobile application building, web design, video graphics, and 3D game design. The young women were interested in subjects from across the science and information communications technology fields, from engineering to medicine, physics to app development. A few discussed establishing their own NGOs.

During their visit to the FCC, the girls had the opportunity to speak with Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, as well as FCC International Bureau Chief, Mindel De La Torre and other panelists about each of their career paths.   

Commissioners Mignon Clyburn

“I think about her and I think if she could go through all of that and still love me and still help raise me, there is nothing I can’t overcome. And there is nothing that anybody can say in this space that will stop me from being what I can be.”
    -- Commissioner M. Clyburn. 

Commissioner Clyburn spoke to the girls about the importance of believing in yourself when you fall short of certain desired goals.  She talked about her own inspirations, one of which was her grandmother who was raised in the segregated south with only a sixth grade education. 

Commissioner Rosenworcel talked with the girls about the low numbers of women in Congress and the importance of future generations of women seeking leadership positions, especially in technology.  She explained that the technology sector is rapidly changing education, government, and business and that it is vitally important that young women choose to be part of that future.  Commissioner RosenworcelCommissioner Rosenworcel addressed the girls’ questions about balancing family and a career.  She described how her children motivate her every day to make the world a better place for future generations.

International Bureau Chief, Mindel De La Torre discussed the changing nature of technology and the effects new media have had in the Middle East and North Africa.  The girls enthusiastically explained their use of new technology and social media outlets, such as Facebook. They were incredibly cognizant of the role social media has played throughout the MENA region.  Used not only as a cool way for keeping up with friends, the girls viewed online resources as homework aides, business platforms, and in particular as an important political forum and a tool for social change. So too, they discussed the modern conundrum of essentially “living online” and its drawbacks, such as the lack of face-to-face communication and privacy issues that their generation is currently dealing with. 

The girls also participated in a panel discussion with various female FCC staff, who discussed their own career paths in the telecom sector. Moderated by Ms. De La Torre, panelists advised the girls on the various paths available to them for achieving their goals and emphasized that “no correct path exists.”  They encouraged the girls to be mindful of the opportunities presented to them and to seize upon them as they occur. “Never say no…”

Here at the FCC, we felt privileged to meet with this group of young women who will undoubtedly be leaders in science, technology, academia, and politics in the future.