WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars: Empowering the Next Generation of Female STEM Leaders

This August, 36 young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from universities across India and China completed the first year of the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars Program, an exciting new initiative made possible through Qualcomm’s support.

During the program, each Scholar received financial assistance through a US$5,000 scholarship and also had the unique opportunity to be mentored for a six-month period by a Qualcomm professional to further enhance her professional development and leadership skills.

As the Program Officer for Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech), administered by the Institute of International Education, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in this program since its inception in 2015 and see the transformation of these young women throughout the course of their mentorships.

After the first cohort of Scholars was selected in India, I visited the students in their home state of Kerala in early 2016 to introduce the expectations, curriculum, and goals for their mentorships in an orientation. For the majority of the students, this was their first exposure to both a mentoring relationship and the idea of working to develop skills like goal setting, identifying your strengths, and creating a career plan. It became clear that having a connection with their Qualcomm mentor and working together via a virtual mentoring platform was going to give these young women an incredible opportunity to think about their futures beyond just the classroom. With the encouragement of their mentors, they would be developing a real understanding of the workforce while receiving meaningful guidance in how to cultivate their own non-technical skills in order to become a more competitive, engaged, and confident professional after graduation.

Returning to India in August to take part in the end-of-program celebration at Qualcomm’s Bangalore office, I couldn’t believe that the 18 Scholars I met at orientation in February were the same self-assured young women standing before me. The change was immediately apparent—the students spoke with more confidence and direction, able to clearly articulate their personal and professional goals. I heard from girls who had recently launched their own start-ups, obtained funding for cutting-edge research studies in their fields that are being published in international journals, garnered competitive internship placements in tech companies such as Google and Intel, and had received recognition and accolades from their home universities for their academic achievements. It was clear to me that this program had impacted these women in innumerable ways.

Our Chinese Scholars are no less impressive. Coming from top-tier universities in Beijing, these students were already accomplished in their academic pursuits but were able to gain important real-world competencies in how to perfect their resumes, best prepare for an interview, and use their existing strengths to increase their leadership capacity. And, equally as significant, the one-on-one connection with their Qualcomm mentors from across Asia also helped these young women to become more confident in their own abilities. As one Chinese Scholar shared, “Under my mentor's encouragement, I talked to professors and classmates proactively and I won a lot of opportunities through that. Now I'm studying doing research in lab which I used to have little confidence in. I was always worried about not being qualified but now I know everything is worth trying.”

The feedback that I have also received from the 36 dedicated Qualcomm mentors who have volunteered their time in support of these amazing young women is just as encouraging. In addition to being able to give back to their communities and do something to inspire budding engineers and technologists, mentors expressed gratitude for the chance to also be able to develop their leadership skills through this program. The mentors were equally excited to witness the positive changes in the Scholars as a result of their mentorship. One mentor from India noted, “I can see that my mentee has a clearer picture of where she wants to go than she had before. Her communication has improved and the types of questions I am being asked by her now are more relevant, directed, and mature.”

As the Global Scholars program expands this month into both Taiwan and Korea, I invite you to join us in changing the lives of more incredible young women by providing your guidance, support, and encouragement as a mentor and a program advocate. This program is evidence that investing in women is truly good for business and good for society we hope you will be inspired to come along with us in this endeavor.

Kelty Davis is WeTech’s Program Officer and is responsible for managing the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars Program. This program is part of Qualcomm’s larger commitment to combatting the issue of gender disparity in tech through its partnership with the Institute of International Education (IIE), and WeTech,, a global initiative that provides innovative opportunities for women to become involved in tech-related trainings, scholarships, mentorships, and networks.

For more information on how to become involved in the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars Program as a mentor, please contact Kelty Davis at kedavis@iie.org.