In celebration of International Women’s Day, U.S. Embassy Kuala Lumpur is hosting the first regional Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) Summit from March 6-9, bringing together nearly 200 ExchangeAlumni, women entrepreneurs and business leaders from across the Indo-Pacific. The AWE Summit will leverage U.S. business expertise and technology in ways that build business acumen, create sustainable growth, and foster greater networking among women entrepreneurs across the region.
Launched in 2019 by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. State Department, AWE is an exchange program that gives women the knowledge, networks, and access they need to launch and expand successful businesses. In collaboration with the Office of the U.S. Speaker Program, the summit will bring cutting-edge U.S. expertise in technology and innovation with workshops from two business leaders in tech and finance.
Nancy Wang, general manager at Amazon Web Services, will give the keynote address on International Women’s Day, March 8. Passionate about advancing women in technical fields, Wang is the founder and board chair of Advancing Women in Tech (AWIT), a global 501(c)(3) nonprofit with more than 35,000 members spanning three continents. AWIT provides mentoring to promote women in leadership roles in product and engineering at B2B companies, and has trained 40,000 women through their product management and cloud computing courses on Coursera.
“I decided to start mentoring because I could see the global movement to help women gain financial independence by advancing in their career paths and I wanted to be a part of it,” Wang said.
At the AWE Summit, Wang will lead workshops to train AWE alumni on achieving product-market fit, future proofing, creating a sustainable business model, and the importance of embracing equity. One of the key areas of growth for women entrepreneurs, says Wang, is to understand how to create businesses that will prosper and grow over time, allowing women to be economically independent – which she says women can achieve by developing the right product and selling it in the right market.
Wang founded AWIT as a non-profit organization that accelerates careers and addresses diversity gaps in leadership. In a recent AWIT press release the organization announced it is currently exploring ways to collaborate with the U.S. Department of State to support more women in AWE’s global network.
Angel investor and partner at Silicon Valley Social Venture Fund, Rekha Pai Kamath will lead workshops that focus on financing, addressing different avenues for funding your business and designing winning business pitches for investors. Kamath started collaborating with the State Department in 2012 as a guest speaker for another U.S. government program called TechWomen, and was energized by that experience.
“It was very inspiring to see that the State Department was trying to link women in tech from emerging countries to women in Silicon Valley,” Kamath said. “And for me as a woman engineer, I felt like this was a way that I could connect, give back, share, and engage.”
Born and raised in India, Kamath faced many obstacles launching her own business and is determined to give back to other women. She hopes to inspire people attending the summit to invest in startups, and will share lessons learned on how to make a new company more attractive for investors – lessons that she said many women entrepreneurs are eager to learn.
“The one thing I hope the women take away from this summit is to have more confidence,” Kamath said. “The journey might look tough right now, but there are resources for everyone to take advantage of and I’m here to help.”
As a U.S. government exchange program, AWE empowers women by teaching them the strategic planning and business development skills they need to grow. A core focus is on building greater self-confidence and independent decision-making among women entrepreneurs – with help from some of the best tech expertise in the United States.
“Owning your own business gives you economic freedom, and it is my pleasure to share what I have learned to help women around the world achieve this,” Wang said.
The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs is a program of the U.S. Department of State that directly supports the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality. Since 2019, AWE has used the DreamBuilder online learning platform, developed by Arizona State University’s Thunderbird School of Global Management, to empower more than 25,000 women entrepreneurs in 100 countries to follow their dream of owning a business. AWE operates in countries across Asia and the Pacific, helping roughly 1,200 women entrepreneurs each year to grow their businesses and reach their full economic potential.
The Office of the U.S. Speaker Program collaborates with U.S. embassies and consulates around the world to connect professional foreign audiences with American citizen experts on topics of strategic importance to the United States. Programs are conducted in person and through virtual engagement platforms and focus on key foreign policy topics. The U.S. Speaker program offers experts an opportunity to engage with new audiences, expand their networks, and exchange ideas with professionals across the globe.
For more information about AWE, visit: https://eca.state.gov/awe
About the Author: Naomi Hampton, is an intern with the U.S. Department of State, currently studying History and Politics of the Americas at University College London.