Mentorship for Muslim Women in IT Among the Change We Need to See

Susan Hall
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Next spring, 38 women from the Muslim world who are seen as emerging technology leaders will come to the United States for five-week mentorships at leading technology companies.


Fast Company reports that organizations interested in hosting these women include Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, Yahoo, and HP, Agilent Technologies, Symantec, as well as the Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories.


They will be between 25 and 42 years old and will come from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza. The story says the State Department established the program, which is being run by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, after President Obama spoke in Cairo about the need to reboot relations between the United States and Muslim countries. The women have not yet been selected, but information about applying is expected soon at the site TechWomen, the name of the program.


The TechWomen site quotes Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, saying:

Through TechWomen, we will match women in Muslim-majority countries with women working here in the U.S. And we will send American mentors to their proteges' countries to engage on a wider scale with the people there. We obviously want to harness one of America's great strengths-our excellence in technology and innovation-and use it to build effective and lasting partnerships with rising women leaders in Muslim countries.

In a Q&A with fellow blogger Don Tennant, Debra Danielson, senior vice president of engineering operations at CA Technologies, talks about how important mentorship has been in her career. That's certainly worth a read. Among the things she says is this:

I think there really isn't a glass ceiling, at least not for me. It's more like rolling a rock up a hill. You hit points where the pushing is really, really hard, and you may have to go sideways-you may have to push that rock in a different direction to get it up the hill. And if you back off at all in the process of rolling that rock up the hill, it'll roll back down on you. I think that's one of the issues that impact women differently from men.

IT Business Edge's Ann All has written much about the issues women in tech face. I also found this interesting post at Mediamum describing the avid recruitment of female tech pros at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Tech. Writer Jo White says that's a big deal. She writes:

It's a big deal because it's something girls need to know. If you're a girl and you go into tech, you'll have myriad job opportunities. Because male computer scientists are, let's face it, a dime a dozen. There is no doubt the females bring something a little different to the table. (And it's not a pink computer.) Note: That's a reference to Computer Engineer Barbie.

She says women in tech need to stop whining about their plight and work to create the change they want to see, including this:

If you're a woman in tech, find some women you'd love to see speak at conferences and recommend them to the organizers. Stop going to women's conferences instead of general conferences-at the very least, do both. And my challenge to you is to find a woman in tech or up-and-coming girl, to nominate for an award. There are lots out there. Or you know, you should nominate yourself. Tell other women how inspiring you think they are. Reach out and e-mail a woman who has influenced you to be in tech-even if you have never actually met them. Write a blog post ... on what is fantastic about being a woman in tech.

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