Association Affairs

Workshops focus on female entrepreneurs

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Science  29 Jul 2016:
Vol. 353, Issue 6298, pp. 457
DOI: 10.1126/science.353.6298.457-b

Focusing on female innovators' access to entrepreneurship, a series of Women's Village Workshops held this year in Côte d'Ivoire, Mozambique, and Nigeria taught strategies for expanding business networks and propelling science and technology innovations toward the market.

Each workshop, organized and managed by AAAS's Research Competitiveness Program (RCP), brought together 25 local entrepreneurs from an array of fields, including information technology, health, telecommunications, and agriculture. A majority of the participants were women.

The program is just one element of the U.S. Department of State's Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) initiative, which helps young innovators from around the world with startup companies that tackle economic and development challenges.

To accelerate the workshop participants' entrepreneurship, each was challenged to reach “60 in 6”: to expand her network by 60 people over the course of the next 6 months using the strategies learned at the workshop.

“After the workshop, I put into practice what I have learned, and my network continues to grow,” said Jessyca Esther Houenou, a software and web developer who has cofounded an organization to promote Côte d'Ivoire's natural wealth. Houenou also said that she has shared digital marketing techniques from the workshop with other women who were interested in reaching new customers.

Cultivating leadership among participants is a key benefit of the workshops, said Charles Dunlap, director of RCP.

“We see all of those things as capacity-building—we want to see our participants pass on knowledge,” he said.

Participant Safoura Fadiga, also of Côte d'Ivoire, said that the workshop she attended was structured to promote collaboration.

“I liked the communication techniques used,” she said, explaining that participants moved around the room to interact with one another, rather than remaining seated. An engineer, teacher, and entrepreneur, Fadiga leads IST-DUBASS, a private, French-English bilingual college that aims to train more young people—particularly girls-in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

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