Dean Jelena Kovačević sits on a high-wattage panel in honor of the International Day of the Girl

On October 7, in the leadup to the International Day of the Girl (October 11), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Bulgaria, co-hosted a virtual panel on the theme of “Gender Equality in Science, Technology and Innovation.” 

Dean Jelena Kovačević was on hand to discuss the steps NYU Tandon is taking to ensure that a day will come when it’s no longer necessary to talk about “women in STEM” — just accomplished scientists, technologists, and engineers who happen to be women.  

She outlined a four-step plan for building a strong pipeline to the STEM world that includes:

  • Encouraging girls to participate in STEM early through Tandon’s Center for K12 STEM Education, which offers a variety of initiatives, such as Computer Science for Cyber Security (CS4CS), a free program that introduces students (80% of whom are high-school women) to the in-demand field. Fully 50% of the participants in the 2019 programs were women, and several Tandon students serve as tutors and mentors with the Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women in Brooklyn.
  • Recruiting and enrolling women students, who are invited to attend events like Tandon-WEST, a biannual experience for prospective and newly admitted students that allows them to meet female mentors and peers.
  • Creating a welcoming and inclusive environment in which every student can thrive. Women students can choose to live on a dedicated floor in a residence hall that offers a strong support and networking system; join such clubs as the Society of Women Engineers and STEMinist, among other women-focused organizations; and attend an annual Women in STEM Summit, which brings an array of compelling speakers to Brooklyn, including, this past year, one of the few female FAA certified drone pilots in the nation.
  • Keeping alumnae involved as members of an advisory council who serve as mentors, provide job shadowing and internship opportunities, and speak at events.

Additionally, she explained, men at Tandon are encouraged to engage in concrete behaviors that encourage equal participation in classes, labs, and projects, and everyone can partake in a diversity-focused curriculum that includes classes like “Science and Feminism” and “Science and Difference” to explore varying perspectives in STEM.

As UNESCO points out, the more than 1.1 billion girls under the age of 18 in the world potentially comprise the largest generation of female technologists, entrepreneurs, and change-makers we’ve ever seen, and Tandon stands ready to do its part to encourage and educate them. 

Other speakers on the panel, which was moderated by Ursula Wynhoven, ITU Representative to the United Nations, were:

  • Gladys Mosomtai, a Next Einstein Ambassador for Kenya and UNESCO/L`’Oréal Award winner, who described her own challenges as a young woman in STEM
  • Ambassador Georgi Velikov Panayotov, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Bulgaria to the United Nations, who proudly pointed out that women represent 52% of the total number of scientists and engineers in his country
  • Shilpa Pullela, Counsellor at the Australian Permanent Mission to the UN, who shared her own national Advancing Women in STEM Strategy
  • Marie Paule Roudil, Director of UNESCO New York Office, who described her organization’s priority of promoting gender equality in its domains of expertise by ‘keeping the girls in the picture’ in the fields of science, technology, and innovations
  • Ola Zahran, Head of the WIPO Coordination Office in New York, who shared the welcome news that the number of women filing international patent applications has doubled since 1995
  • Sana Khan, AI Lead for the Northeast Region at Microsoft, who shared new developments in automation
  • Victoria Alonsoperez, United Nations Young Leader for the Sustainable Development Goals and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, who shared her experiences in the aerospace industry