It could have been the start of a multicultural take on a classic joke premise: an American, a Moroccan, an Algerian and a Yemeni were riding in a car — and it did end up a joke of sorts. Not understanding Arabic, I listened to the cadences of language among my passengers, until they burst into laughter and then into English. It turns out they could not understand each other, and were laughingly accusing each other of not speaking Arabic.
For the second year, I’ve had the privilege of volunteering as a cultural mentor for technical women visiting Silicon Valley under TechWomen, sponsored by the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The program brings emerging leaders from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to work in a professional mentorship and exchange at companies in the Silicon Valley, where they work with a professional mentor on a three-week project, and are paired with a cultural mentor to help navigate through cultural differences and exploration. The Department of State partners with the Institute of International Education (also known for implementing the Fulbright scholarships) and the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.
All the participants are women. The emerging leaders go through a rigorous selection process: their applications are reviewed and narrowed by panels of technical women and program administrators, then they are interviewed at the US embassies in their countries. The mentors are chosen and matched to these emerging leaders according to their fields and interests. . .