International Connections: #HiddenNoMore: Empowering Women Leaders in STEM

The World Affairs Council International Visitor Program recently welcomed a high profile international delegation of women leaders in STEM to Seattle to participate in the U.S. State Department’s premier professional exchange program, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP).

The program was inspired by the Oscar-nominated movie Hidden Figures, which has been shown at over 100 U.S. embassies around the world to inspire more girls to become scientists and engineers. Following the unprecedented worldwide support and social impact of the movie, the State Department funded this exchange program to discuss the importance of women and diversity in STEM fields. While women make up half of the U.S.’ college-educated workforce, they only make up 29% of the science and engineering workforce. Women remain underrepresented in the STEM workforce and this movie highlighted this disparity, which exists worldwide. Promoting more girls and women in STEM fields empowers women to be leaders and increases economic gender equality.

The State Department Program titled #HiddenNoMore: Empowering Women Leaders in STEM welcomed 48 women working in STEM from 48 countries on a three-week long program throughout the U.S. According to Stacy White, the office director of the State Department’s IVLP, the idea was to “get people from diverse communities talking about these issues that are vital to long-term U.S. security and prosperity.”  In the months leading up to and during #HiddenNoMore, the program gained media attention from The Hollywood Reporter, Vox, HuffPost, NPR, NBC News, and Share America.  

21 women from the #HiddenNoMore program visited Seattle and met with various organizations and companies that promote STEM fields for women and girls. #HiddenNoMore kicked off in Seattle with a presentation at The Riveter, a collaborative workspace where women can network and learn from each other. Dr. Therese Huston from Seattle University gave a talk on the gender gap in workplace feedback; addressing how men more often receive concrete and actionable feedback than women and how women can elicit truly helpful feedback from supervisors and colleagues. Following Dr. Huston’s talk, staff of The Riveter provided an overview of the organization and its mission to create a welcoming workspace for women.

The delegation then participated in a workshop with IGNITE: Inspiring Girls in Technology Evolution, a non-profit program in partnership with the Seattle School District to encourage girls to consider careers in technology. Because girls are more inspired after hearing women speak and share their stories, IGNITE works to create activities to introduce these positive role models as examples of women succeeding in technological careers. IGNITE brings women into the classroom, organizes field trips to local companies, and has a high school mentor program that partners students with women from tech fields who share their real stories, career journeys, and advice for overcoming obstacles.

In the evening, the Pacific Science Center hosted a panel discussion open to the public with three of the #HiddenNoMore visitors. These panelists shared their experiences as women working in STEM and provided advice for other women and girls interested in pursuing STEM careers. A networking reception followed where all of the visitors had the opportunity to engage directly with local community members and students to share their challenges and achievements.

#HiddenNoMore - Community Event

Community Speaking Event featuring 3 international visitors on the panel.

The following day, the #HiddenNoMore women met with representatives from Microsoft Philanthropies to discuss topics including: Inclusive Growth in a New Era of Digital Transformation, Digital Skills Programs, and Closing the Gender Gap in Tech. Representatives highlighted mentoring and networking programs such as “Women at Microsoft” and “Women Think Next”, media campaigns and social media outreach programs, and their public-private partnership YouthSpark: DigiGirlz, designed to accelerate student learning in STEM subjects, especially for girls from diverse backgrounds. The visit concluded with a panel discussion featuring three female Microsoft engineers who shared their experience and challenges working in STEM. The women highlighted how the skills of STEM teach entrepreneurship and gives people critical skills in today’s evolving digital world.

#HiddenNoMore - Microsoft

Panel discussion at Microsoft featuring three female engineers.

A visit to T-Mobile highlighted the company’s efforts to support its female employees and encourage future STEM women professionals. Their Women Leadership Network (WLN) works to raise awareness and provide professional development to help women think and act like leaders, wherever they are in their careers. Recent workshops have included topics such as building a personal brand online, personal finance, and the myths and realities of achieving work-life balance. WLN emphasized the importance of a diverse and inclusive workplace for competitiveness and T-Mobile’s gender inclusive culture.

#HiddenNoMore - WLN

T-Mobile’s Women’s Leadership Network welcomes our delegates.

Finally, at the UW’s CoMotion’s Startup Hall, a distinguished panel featured women in STEM included Tiffany McVeety (International Entrepreneurship Educator, Speaker, and Director with Girandola Academy), Jocelyn Scheintaub (Integration Engineer and Rocket Propulsion Chemist at Blue Origin), Dr. Leen Kawas (President and CEO or M3 Biotechnology), and moderated by Elizabeth Scallon (Associate Director of CoMotion Labs at the University of Washington). The panel shared ideas on how to encourage women to pursue careers in fields traditionally dominated by men, and how women in STEM can support each other.

The #HiddenNoMore program was equally inspiring to the international visitors and the Seattle community members they engaged with. The social impact of Hidden Figures and #HiddenNoMore demonstrate the enduring relevance of the movie. Thanks to the great work of individuals and organizations encouraging more women and girls in STEM fields, the conversations started during this program will continue in the visitors’ home countries and here in Seattle.

By Celia Louie, IVP Intern