In Part 1 of her interview, Regina Agyare shared with us the roots of her passion for computer science and her journey that brought her to the IT department of an international bank in Accra. However, it did not take long for Agyare to begin realizing that her position working in the bank would not provide her with the opportunity to grow.

 

Agyare started Growing STEMS to encourage the young generation to use technology to come up with local solutions to local problems (soronkosolutions.com)

Agyare started Growing STEMS to encourage the young generation to use technology to come up with local solutions to local problems (soronkosolutions.com)

The idea of striking out on her own was intriguing, but scary. She remembers the doubts and fear that held her back for some time. “I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, even though I had done entrepreneurial things without noticing it. But I feel like that’s also another thing in terms of the social conditioning for women. A man who had had similar experiences and done similar things as I had done would have immediately seen themselves as an entrepreneur.”

 

Agyare looks back and remembers how her fear was a limitation she had placed on herself, much like she believes many women do. After the buildup of frustration and consistent disappointment at work, a day finally came when Agyare was suddenly overcome by “a burst of confidence” that gave her the strength to make a decision that would change her life: she would resign.

 

“I felt like if I didn’t do it that day, I would have gone home and thought about it and then came up with a hundred reasons why I can’t be an entrepreneur. So I just did it, [and] it was like ripping off a band-aid.”

 

Despite not having a clear idea of where she wanted to take her entrepreneurial efforts, Agyare was able to identify an important fact about Ghanaian society that would help her define her goals.

 

“[I realized that] most of the IT companies in Ghana were targeting big multinationals, because obviously that’s where the money is. There were not a lot of IT companies focused on the smaller scale markets. But interestingly, a majority of Ghanaian companies are small and medium enterprises (SMEs).”

 

Agyare hopes to help people in Ghana see technology as a way of improving their condition and moving forward in the digital age (soronkosolutions.com)

Agyare hopes to help people in Ghana see technology as a way of improving their condition and moving forward in the digital age (soronkosolutions.com)

Agyare looked at these statistics, and it suddenly clicked for her that this was the perfect example of a gap that needed to be filled. More importantly, it was an example of a gap that she could fill.

 

Agyare decided to start Soronko Solutions, a software development company that could tap into that market and provide SMEs in Ghana with affordable, customized solutions on different channels, such as web or mobile.

 

Her ability to identify societal needs combined with her motivation to fill those gaps has extended far beyond her work in software development and entrepreneurship. It has largely driven her desire and efforts to use technology as a form of social change. Motivated by these goals, Agyare started Soronko Foundation, a non-profit operating under Soronko Solutions.

 

Driven by her belief in the importance of being able to build local solutions for local problems, Agyare realized something had to be done to start a change. She identified challenges within society, including young people’s wealth of potential but lack of skills, and the inadequate approach to science and technology instruction in traditional curricula.

 

Tech Needs Girls was started to help inspire girls to get involved in tech through mentorship (soronkosolutions.com)

Tech Needs Girls was started to help inspire girls to get involved in tech through mentorship (soronkosolutions.com)

Agyare and her team realized that boys were always more aggressive than the girls when it came to other projects run by different branches of the initiative. Agyare remembers one session in particular in which a girl was reaching for the computer when she was hit by a boy who then told her that what they were doing was not for girls. The girl responded by pointing to Agyare and arguing that she was a girl.

 

“That was really my “Aha!” moment when I realized the girl really related to me, seeing me as a woman in tech. So I thought, ‘why don’t I create a mentorship program for young girls?’ But … let me get other women in tech [to mentor the girls] because it’s good to show them role models of what they can become.”

 

From there, Tech Needs Girls was born with the primary goal of encouraging girls to become creators through mentorship. The program currently has 465 mentees, and Agyare says that they will soon be starting a club with about 1200 girls, as well. In addition to being mentored, girls also have an opportunity to gain hands on tech experience, partake in different experiments and activities, and even complete internships that allow them to build real world experience while making some money.

 

Agyare says that the hope is to expand the Tech Needs Girls program and its innovative curriculum beyond Ghanaian borders. Through doing so, she believes it will become possible to keep girls from getting left behind as Ghana and other African nations continue getting swept up in technological advancement.

 

Agyare has shown that regardless of gender or social condition, technology has the potential to empower (soronkosolutions.com)

Agyare has shown that regardless of gender or social condition, technology has the potential to empower (soronkosolutions.com)

Importantly, Tech Needs Girls does not focus solely on the concept of bringing girls to tech, but bringing tech to girls in need of it, too. The initiative helps girls in slum communities, for example, who are largely forced to marry early and are rarely given the opportunity to realize their potential. Tech Needs Girls helps these communities by showing them the importance of educating these girls, all while helping empower the girls and change the way they see themselves.

 

Another valuable impact of Tech Needs Girls, according to Agyare, is that it has been able to connect girls to technology, regardless of their specific aspirations. She mentions that the program has worked with girls who hoped to do all kinds of different things in their future who have come to find that regardless of their goals, technology could come in handy.

 

Check back next week as Agyare delves deeper into the topic of women in STEM, discussing factors like the role of culture in the conversation and the need to consider cultural approaches when addressing the issue.

 

If you are a woman working in STEM and are interested in being featured in our ‘Women Leaders in STEM’ series, shoot us an email at blog.muipr@gmail.com or tweet me @tamarahoumi