FabFems and SciGirls in Mexico City!

From October 28-30, 2014 Alicia Santiago was invited by the U.S. Embassy in Mexico to participate in several events around Mexico City regarding entrepreneurial women in STEM. Alicia is a Latino Outreach Specialist for Twin Cities Public Television, a Co-PI for SciGirls CONNECT, and holds a Ph.D. in Cell and Developmental Biology.

In support of the U.S. government efforts to promote women in STEM and entrepreneurship, Alicia participated as a spokesperson for The FabFems Project, an NGCP project which highlights the importance of STEM mentors and role models.  

Throughout Alicia’s time in Mexico City, she had the opportunity to share strategies to alleviate barriers to STEM among Hispanics, discuss the importance of STEM mentors and role models across US-Mexico borders and women’s empowerment through science and entrepreneurship, and explore the possibility of expanding programs like FabFems and SciGirls to Mexico. As a direct result of her outreach, Violata, Maria and Miroslava are our first three new role models from Mexico to join the FabFems network!

Read on for Alicia’s summary of her activities and reflections as a FabFems ambassador in Mexico City.

If you are interested in working with us to help advance science collaboration and innovation between both nations, please share your ideas, projects and connections with us at info@fabfems.org.

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CONALEP Iztapalapa III, a National College of Technical Professional Education

The first event took place at CONALEP Iztapalapa III, a National College of Technical Professional Education which prepares young people from disadvantaged communities to become technicians.

I talked to about 150 students many of which are hearing impaired. The purpose of my visit was to share with students my own education path and experiences becoming a scientist and advocate. Many of these students are at risk of failing academically and face many challenges but they are determined to continue their education in order to improve their lives. This was a very humbling and motivational experience that increased my desire and commitment to reach out to disadvantaged students.

Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City

Press Round Table Later that evening, at the Benjamin Franklin Library in Mexico City, I participated at a press round-table with journalists from five top daily Mexican newspapers. I was also interviewed by Canal Once, a Mexican educational broadcast television network.  This was a great opportunity to inform the public about the mission, goals and key strategies of the FabFems and SciGirls projects for engaging youth from diverse backgrounds – including Hispanics - in STEM.

After the press round-table, I participated in a discussion and networking event with Mexican female scientists and STEM entrepreneurs, and U.S. government officials. I extended an invitation to all participants including educators, science researchers and entrepreneurs to join FabFems. Laura Dogu, Deputy Chief Mission, from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City gave the welcome speech. Pablo Valdez, an ESTH Counselor from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City was the moderator.  In addition to myself, the panelists included: Dr. América Padilla, Co-Director of the Knowledge Commercialization Agency from CINVESTAV, and Fátima Rocha, the Founder of Energy Depot.

We had an interesting conversation about innovation, technology and entrepreneurship in Mexico. I emphasized the idea that innovation begins with education. This is especially important in the STEM fields where STEM education is key to innovation and global competitiveness. I also talked about the importance of STEM role models and the positive impact they have on students.

Google Hang Out

The next morning I participated in a Google Hang Out session with two young entrepreneurs at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. The session was about empowering women through science and innovation careers and through our conversation we were able to highlight the role that education plays in developing skills, confidence, entrepreneurial attitudes, and in building innovation capabilities.

SPIN2014

Later that afternoon I participated in a panel discussion during an international event, SPIN2014, held at the Centro Cultural Universitario Tlatelolco (Tlatelolco University Cultural Centre, CCUT) in Mexico City. The event’s mission was to promote entrepreneurial talent in the university communities of Ibero-America. SPIN2014 also emphasized support for women entrepreneurs as an indispensable engine of the economy, and was committed to promoting female entrepreneurship in Ibero-America. I participated in a panel (Diálogo Women2Women) with Carolina Arce, founder of Smartkidi and Co-founder of Girls in Tech Chile. Karla Giordano was the moderator. She is the Director of the Business Incubators and Accelerators Network at the Vice-presidency for Entrepreneurship at Tecnológico de Monterrey. We talked about our projects, our experiences as women entrepreneurs, and the importance of STEM education, and engaging women in science and technology careers as indispensable elements to the continuing development of the global economy.

College of Sciences and Humanities (CCH Sur)

College of Sciences Students On my last day I gave a talk to approximately 150 high school students from the College of Sciences and Humanities (CCH Sur) on how studying science offers a wide variety of work, allows you to develop transferable skills, and make a positive impact on people’s lives.

It was rejuvenating to talk to these students and to listen to their opinions and interests on different career paths.

 

The Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute

Polytechnic Insitute The last event took place that afternoon at the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del Instituto Politécnico Nacional (The Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute CINVESTAV). At CINVESTAV, I talked to research scientists and graduate students about the underrepresentation of girls and women in STEM in both the U.S. and Mexico and about barriers affecting STEM opportunities for women. I once more introduced the FabFems and SciGirls programs to the audience and explained how these initiatives help promote science and technology among youth and encourage girls to pursue careers in STEM. 

Overall, my visit to Mexico City was a wonderful experience. Everyone including students, scientists, and other professionals were very receptive and excited to the idea of bringing FabFems and SciGirls to Mexico.

I am confident that FabFems and SciGirls engagement of Mexican youth and science professionals could provide critical encouragement to women and girls to participate as professionals in science.

Finally, I want to thank the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City for inviting me to participate in these events, and giving me the opportunity to share our work and the programs’ success in engaging girls and women in science. Furthermore, this invitation FabFems and SciGirls a wonderful opportunity to continue sparking girls’ curiosity and engagement in STEM across borders!