Female scientists and entrepreneurs play an important role in society, both on a community level and globally. GIST has helped young women entrepreneurs across the world to get the mentorship, support, and skills necessary to develop their science and technology ideas and compete in the global marketplace.
This article showcases several women who have been involved with the GIST Initiative over the past few years and who are able to speak firsthand regarding their involvement with GIST and the challenges they have overcome to be successful.
Nermin Fawzi Sa’d
Nermin Fawzi Sa’d, a 38-year-old Jordanian entrepreneur, says her inspiration and character come from her mother, an Arab woman with five children and a university degree at a time where a woman’s role in the region was restricted to house-work and raising children. Her mother taught her that she should always set big goals and create a plan of action to achieve them.
Nermin was ranked 47th in the 2014 “100 Most Powerful Arab Women” for her achievements and impact on the region and understands the needs and struggles of the modern Arab woman. Her startup, Handasiyat, aims to bypass social rules and solve the deficit of local engineers through a customized online platform. This platform supports Arab female engineers and encourages them to use their qualifications in the market and allows them to work on their own terms. It also aims to solve employment complexity in crisis areas such as Libya and Syria.
Nerman’s goal is to master the different elements associated with her belief that too much dependence upon others is can be risky because “even your shadow leaves you in the darkness,” as she eloquently stated. Handasiyat is now comprised of three full-time employees on the management team.
Handasiyat won the Best Female Competitor Award at the 2013 GIST-Tech I Competition in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, where she also got a chance to meet Secretary of State John Kerry, who mentioned her during his address at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. When asked about her experience at this event, Nermin saw herself as the luckiest participant because of the mentorship she received from Mr. Gibs Song. “He is a genius,” she said. “He taught me a lot with few words. He encouraged and supported me since we met and we still keep in touch. He is always there, ready to help.”
Competitive swimmer Hind Hobeika of Lebanon noticed a gap in exercise technology. While runners and other athletes had real-time data devices like smartwatches, swimmers did not. As a young female engineer, Hind tackled the problem head on by inventing the first waterproof heart rate monitor attached to swimming goggles that tracks, stores, and displays instant heart rate feedback. She founded the company Instabeat to market her product.
“I don't think I would be here today if it weren't for [GIST’s] help”.
- Hind Hobeika
Instabeat was recognized by Forbes as one of their seven Hottest Global Startups of 2013 and named the Best of Innovations at CES 2014 for wearable technologies.
The GIST initiative connected Hind to mentors and networking opportunities that helped her business flourish. Hind credits the GIST initiative with giving her “tremendous exposure” and she believes that “I don't think I would be here today if it weren't for [GIST’s] help”.
In 2013 Catherine Kiguru, 28, participated in the GIST East Africa Startup Boot Camp in Tanzania, receiving the Best Female Entrepreneur award in 2013. Later that year, she was invited as a guest speaker and panelist at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“This was my first public pitch and I was nervous but in the end, I learned to sale better, was mentored and the networking with top winners and founders at the event was priceless.”.
- Catherine Kiguru, Best Female Entrepreneur GIST Startup Bootcamp Tanzania
Catherine is a skilled software engineer from Kenya who has expertise in building mobile and back end solutions. Though she was one of four sisters orphaned at the age of 14, her parents’ foresight enabled Catherine to complete her secondary education and gain entry into Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology, where she obtained a diploma in Computer Studies.
She currently serves as the Chief Innovator at Ukall, which runs Akida Limited. Ukall Limited is a boutique Information Communications Technology (ICT) Company with a focus on business process automation. They develop and deliver specialized products and services tailored to clients’ individual requirements. Akida is mobile to web platform that addresses the challenges of staff attendance verification and communication in small to large organizations that employ mobile workforces or deploy staff in various locations such as Security Companies, Marketing Firms and Facilities Management. Akida incorporates staff attendance through facial verification, GPS and time logging. It allows reporting and an effective and affordable way of communicating through its reporting and alerts feature.
In addition to her work with Akida, Catherine is also a founding member of Akirachix, an organization that encourages female participation in the male dominated ICT arena.
Past Tech-I Best Female Entrepreneur Awards
2013 Nermin Fawzi Sa'd, Founder & CEO - Tech-I Video
2012 Jolene Sim, Marketing Director of Centsless - Tech-I Video
2011 Rofaida Awad, Founder - Tech-I Video