SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. (Cheers and applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you very, very much. Please, this is incredible. I have not seen this room not only this full, but this energized since we’ve been here. So thank you all for being here today. It’s just wonderful to see you. I really just wanted an opportunity to stop by and to say thank yous, thank yous to a number of people for bringing all of you together today, for bringing all of us together today.
First, to my colleagues who support the TechWomen program, including Angela Woods, our TechWomen program director, and Liz Allen, our Senior Official for Public Diplomacy. (Applause.) Two extraordinary women, two extraordinary leaders. So thank you so much for that.
My wife – (laughter), Evan Ryan – (applause), who is here today and who contributed to this program as our previous Assistant Secretary for Educational and Cultural Affairs. So here’s the thing, even if I didn’t believe in this myself, I would have no choice. (Laughter.)
And I also see our former Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs, Ann Stock, who helped found TechWomen in the first place. (Applause.) Ann, it’s wonderful, wonderful to see you.
Our partners at the Institute of International Education who have helped make TechWomen a reality for over a decade, thank you so much to them. (Applause.)
And most of all, most of all, to the more than 100 TechWomen Emerging Leaders and almost 30 mentors who made this year’s program such a success. This is first and foremost who I want to say thank you to, and who I have to say I’m incredibly inspired by. So thank you to each and every one of you. (Applause.)
As Emerging Leaders, you have come from over 20 countries in Africa, South and Central Asia, the Middle East, to deepen your skills as data scientists, as engineers, as architects, as physicians, and so much more. And I have to say you were hosted by exceptional mentors, American women from tech firms across Silicon Valley.
Five weeks ago, you were strangers. Today, I know from what I’ve heard that you’re colleagues and friends. And that in and of itself is an incredibly powerful thing.
The relationships that you’re building through this program, the networks you’re creating will be with you for years and years to come. I’ve heard how you’ve learned already – learned from each other, expanded your knowledge, and have started to build these new networks, how you exchanged parts of your culture – sharing meals, performing dances, touring the Bay Area. And since September, you’ve developed projects together – concrete projects – that address some of the most challenging problems that all of us have to face.
Last week, our Emerging Leaders pitched these ideas in a funding competition. Four of them won grants from the State Department; another received funding from the software company Synopsys.
Two of these projects will improve responses to climate-fueled disasters – one by creating an emergency response app for floods in Pakistan, another by installing sensors to warn off wildfires in Morocco – concrete, remarkable things. (Applause.)
A team will strengthen women and youth-led poultry cooperatives in Rwanda, which both provide more sustainable income and improve nutrition in underserved communities.
Another will develop an informative app that will help parents of children with Down Syndrome in the Palestinian territories, by providing medical guidance and connecting them to support groups. (Applause.)
And a group from Sierra Leone will improve access to safe drinking water by building a water supply system. (Applause.)
These projects – and others that you all developed – are one of the reasons that we launched TechWomen in the first place. We believe that you, and women like you, can help solve the biggest problems that we have to face on this planet.
We also know this: For too long, women in STEM have faced significant obstacles: gender bias, a lack of mentors, limited opportunities. This is an industry‑wide problem. It’s a worldwide challenge that holds women back and deprives our societies of their contributions.
Through TechWomen, we’re working together to help knock down these barriers. (Applause.) And we’re building bridges – in STEM, between our people, between all of our countries. And we’re doing that through all of you.
As this program now enters its second decade, we’re also expanding its reach. We’ll spread to new parts of our own country, the United States, as well as new regions of the world, starting with the Balkans. We’ll create additional opportunities for collaboration between alums and mentors. We’ll continue supporting younger generations of women in STEM.
So what I’d like to leave you with is this encouragement, that you continue engaging with the program not just now, not just in the months ahead, but in the years ahead, because we couldn’t be prouder to be your partners and because this has to be a living, growing, expanding, evolving thing. And you’re the ones who can make it be exactly that.
As important as five weeks may be, what’s even more important is what follows from it. And again, these connections that you’ve made, these networks that you’re building, that to me is the power of TechWomen. That’s what makes it something that will carry us, carry you, carry our societies far into the future.
We know – because we’ve seen it already in the time that the program has existed – we know that you’re going to keep doing remarkable work, not only in your fields but also to support other women. More than 90 percent of the TechWomen alumna who’ve been surveyed have said that they’ve actually gone on to mentor women in their countries. So I hope you’ll continue to build on that tradition, too. Carrying it forward, paying it forward, that’s also the power of TechWomen.
My last thought is this. You’ve already heard about some remarkable projects that have come out of this session. But I really can’t wait – we can’t wait – to see all that you’re going to do in the years ahead, that you’re going to do together, that you’re going to do for the betterment of your countries, of your societies, of the world and the planet that we share. This is – you are – the hope that we have for our common future. We couldn’t be prouder to be working with you. Thank you so very much. (Applause.)