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How EWAAB is Encouraging Women in STEM

by Jordan and Joelle Hernandez
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“All young women deserve the tools and opportunity to succeed.” This sentiment is at the core of Encouraging Women Across All Borders (EWAAB), a nonprofit organization that provides mentorship programs to female college students globally. Through these programs, EWAAB’s mission is to close confidence and opportunity gaps for women globally, creating a world where all young women can enter and excel in their fields of choice. To learn more about the organization, we spoke with co-founder Kaitlin Gili who shared how the organization was started. 

How Encouraging Women Across All Borders Was Founded

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(Photo credit: @ewaabconnect)

Kaitlin founded the EWAAB with Dominika Durovčíková in the summer of 2019. At the time, the women were both physics students at different universities, Kaitlin at Stevens Institute of Technology and Dominika at the University of Oxford, and met at a networking event. After reuniting over the summer, they started to talk about the lack of female representation in physics.

“One night, we were both tossing around ideas about ways in which we could share our experiences and tips with younger students. We shared stories about the lack of women mentors in physics. We shared stories about how many of our friends were afraid to reach out to do research or for an internship directly to a contact. We shared stories about how there aren’t many spaces for women, especially in male-dominated fields, to talk about challenges like imposter syndrome,” she explains. After this conversation, the two decided to act. 

International Impact

women in stem ewaab

(Photo credit: @ewaabconnect)

Kaitlin and Dominika had already established an international relationship while in college, so they wanted to make sure that women everywhere would benefit from their ideas. Kaitlin talked about the fact that EWAAB was meant to have a global impact straight away. “We brought together six other mentors across four other countries to start an EWAAB mentorship program at their university that we had fully designed.”

Both Kaitlin and Dominika had been afforded opportunities to study and take internships abroad, which expanded their networks. EWAAB grew quickly, and its programs can now be seen at universities here in the United States as well as in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.

The girls benefitting from the organization have been able to find commonalities throughout new connections. “The impact that we’ve had internationally has been amazing. It’s always interesting for everyone to see that young women in one part of the world are facing similar challenges to those somewhere else. The talks are a safe space for all of the girls to come together to share similarities as well as cultural differences,” shared Kaitlin. 

The Power of Mentorship 

women in stem ewaab

(Photo credit: @ewaabconnect)

In a study done by the Journal of Management Development, mentorship is cited as a key factor of long-term success for women in the workplace. In short, the study finds that while women have made major strides in the working world, they often reach a “glass ceiling” that can be difficult to shatter without someone in her corner. EWAAB knows the positive effects mentoring can have, especially on young women, as they approach the workforce. Kaitlin shared more about the programs EWAAB offers to help make change possible.

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“Our main program is called Encourage Her, and right now it is for first-year university students that starts in September and goes to May. The program is an all-in-one starter package for professionalization.” 

Each student in the program is paired with two mentors, a primary and secondary mentor. Kaitlin explains that this approach has many benefits including the ability to circulate more ideas, eliminating the need to perfect the “one-to-one match-up,” and an increase in each participant’s network. “We believe in multiple layers of mentorship,” Kaitlin shared. “At every stage of your career, there is always someone behind you that you can lift up.” 

The COVID-19 Effect 

women in stem ewaab

(Photo credit: @ewaabconnect)

As everyone navigates the pandemic, the nonprofit world has been hit particularly hard. However, Kaitlin mentioned that, despite a few logistical changes, EWAAB has been running smoothly. She shares that during this time, mentorship is more important than ever with so many schools either fully or partially virtual.

“We believe that mentorship is more important now than ever as students are less connected. Some universities that are fully remote are struggling with giving students the same networking and leadership experiences. Usually, students will get really involved with an organization on campus during their freshman year and eventually go after an officer position, now it’s harder to do that. It’s also more difficult for community build and to get an internship. We know that this is going to affect all students, but we’re worried that this is going to affect women more, “said Kaitlin.

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She continued, “Programs like the ones provided by EWAAB are crucial for the success and well-being of students. “We hope to be able to offer young women an experience that will make them feel more supported during this pandemic.”

Getting Involved 

women in stem ewaab

(Photo credit: @ewaabconnect)

EWAAB is always looking for additional mentors and speakers.  The founders and mentors have already made a huge impact and are continuing to do so through community volunteers. Kaitlin explained, “We always want to get more people involved in our community. We would love more speakers who are willing to share their experiences with mentees. We would love more working professional Secondary Mentors, and even though we have all of our Primary Mentors for this year, we are definitely looking to increase our numbers next year.”

Additionally, if speaking or mentoring may not be an option, EWAAB can be supported financially. “We are doing our best to raise money for sustainability and expansion in our current communities and other communities. We are also raising money for our annual toolkits that we provide university mentees and that we will provide community college students with next year.” 

To learn more or to become involved as a speaker, mentor, or donor, visit www.ewaab.org.

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