Gaining Perspective from the 51st Floor

The recent luncheon for the TechGirls co-hosted by Bank of America and Women Innovate Mobile was a brilliant and inspiring event. Held on the 51st floor of the Bank of America building in New York City, it provided an opportunity for the TechGirls to network with successful social innovators and businesswomen. The New York skyline was the perfect backdrop to this exciting meeting. While their ears may have been popping on their way up in the elevator, once arriving on the 51st floor the TechGirls were ecstatic.

DSC_0282 DSC_0283

Before the luncheon started, a group of TechGirls huddled by a window, looking up and down and pinching the Empire State Building with their fingertips.

“I just realized how small we are,” said Joanna Arida, from Jordan, as she and her fellow TechGirls looked at the tiny citizens on the streets of New York so far below.

Perspective was everything at this high-energy meeting. As individuals we may be small, but together we are part of something much larger. A diverse array of speakers further highlighted how far the movement of getting females more involved in STEM has come and what we have to do to ensure that it continues.

“The thing that brings us together is our interest in technology and the need to make our community a better place,” said Nagham Joudeh (Palestine) on behalf of the TechGirls. “Being a part of this program has given me not only an opportunity to learn about careers in technology, it has also given me 26 sisters.”

“And a handful of crazy aunts who want you to succeed!” interjected Hoey with a smile.

The TechGirls also had the opportunity to hear fifteen year old Amy Marie Pinto from Hunts Point in the South Bronx speak about learning to code through Startup Box and KnO My BOrO, a mobile app she created.

Keynote speaker Debbie Guild, Enterprise Chief Technology Officer at Bank of America, spoke about the world needing more female technologists. “Get into it,” she encouraged them, “and please bring a friend!”

DSC_0286 DSC_0363

Kelly Hoey, Co-Founder of Women Innovate Mobile and organizer of the luncheon closed the program by reminding the TechGirls that “The people in this room want to see you succeed fabulously. Know that you are never alone. And when you have that idea, call me!”

The sentiment of Hoey’s powerful statement rang loud and clear in conversations large and small at the luncheon.

“What can we do to help you succeed?” asked the women at Libyan TechGirl Lina Benamer’s table.

Unsure whether or not the question was rhetorical, Lina Benamer of Libya was quiet, pondering her response while enjoying her salmon.

“Well,” Lina began, “Before, I always thought I wanted to be an engineer and I still do, but since participating in the TechGirls program, I also have an interest in working at the UN.”

The whole table chimed in.

“I’m on it,” asserted Hope S. Taitz of Ely Capital Advisors.

“I have a friend who works with the UN,” said Neha Bhaskar, a senior Product Manager at Microsoft.

“I have a contact there who would be happy to be in touch with you,” said another.

“See? Look at that. We are on it!” confirmed Taitz.

This luncheon was a shining example of what can come out of putting people next to individuals they might not connect with otherwise. Social innovators, women heading start-ups, investors, and activists sat next to the bright young TechGirls of the Middle East and North Africa. The TechGirls left the building buzzing with excitement and possibility, ice cream, pockets full of business cards, gift bags from Saks Fifth Avenue, and a warm hug from one of their new aunts, Kelly Hoey.

The TechGirls are incredibly thankful to everyone who made this event happen–especially Bina Kalola!

DSC_0372 DSC_0343