OPINION: Five lessons from Rwanda on leading girls toward careers in STEM

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I first understood the impact of stories from listening as a little girl to my grandmother. She would put me on her knee and share stories from her own journey — how she went from living in extreme poverty in rural Virginia to having full agency over her life.

My parents were the first in their families to graduate from high school. My grandparents never made it beyond eighth grade. Although I successfully graduated from college, I had no one in my extended family who could offer specific career advice about how to navigate my postsecondary path.It wasn’t until 10 or 15 years later that I began to find my own way career-wise. I had just landed a consulting job to help implement market reforms in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan. It was an exciting but challenging position. When I looked around the office, I saw very few women and absolutely no one else of color. It was an “Aha” moment for me. My level of education and passion for the work were what got me into the room. I knew that if I could find my way into that room, any girl, from anywhere, could get there, too.