Women around world can be empowered with education

Women around world can be empowered with education
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Education in science, technology, engineering and math fields can be the road to economic empowerment for women around the world. But unfortunately, girls often face significant barriers that restrict access to STEM education. According to a United Nations study of 14 countries, the percentage of women graduating with a bachelor’s degree in a field related to science is 18 percent. For women graduating with a master’s in a field related to science it is just 8 percent. While women represent 40 percent of the global labor force, they are often in lower wage jobs.

However, we can change this trajectory. I recently traveled to Tbilisi in the nation of Georgia for the women in science camp hosted by the American Society for Microbiology, Millennium Challenge Corporation, the State Department, the United Nations, Microsoft, Google and Intel. The camp brought together 100 high school girls from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and the United States to build science, technology, engineering, arts, math and leadership skills to prepare them for the future.

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Campers learned coding and app development, engineering and robotics, microbiology and molecular biology, and satellite mapping. They presented ideas that use the skills and tools they gained to address a social or development challenge in their communities and around the world. It was a pleasure to get to meet these young women, and I was truly inspired by their enthusiasm and vision for the future.  

The camp reached girls like Leslie Arroyo, a sophomore at University Preparatory School in California. She has an aptitude for and an interest in science and technology, but Silicon Valley feels worlds away from her small town in the high desert. She was provided with a unique learning experience and an opportunity to take classes from some of the leading tech companies in the world. Girls from across the country attended the camp, from Ohio and Illinois to California and Pennsylvania, with 10 states in all were represented at the women in science camp.

Tamar Kerdikoshvili is a second year chemistry student at the San Diego State University campus in Georgia. She was selected as a counselor at the women in science camp because she wanted to extend STEM opportunities to more young women by guiding them through her own experience. She is attending the San Diego State University in Georgia through a program supported by the Millennium Challenge Corporation that allows American students to study abroad in Tbilisi and Georgian students to study at the San Diego State University campus in California.

On the heels of the women in science camp in Tbilisi, the Millennium Challenge Corporation announced it will look to increase its participation in future women in science camps. The agency signed an agreement with the State Department to explore opportunities for additional partner countries to host future camps and to recruit participants. The Millennium Challenge Corporation will also engage the private sector and mobilize new partners to support the camps. This has the potential to expand the reach of the United States government in supporting the empowerment of women and enhancing education for girls around the world.

The women in science camps are part of the United States efforts to empower the next generation of female leaders to support prosperity and stability across the globe. Promoting gender equality in education is fundamental to achieving the mission of reducing poverty through economic growth. Empowering women leads to stronger countries, higher family incomes, and more private sector jobs.

Cynthia Huger serves as vice president of the administration department and the chief financial officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.