31 Oct Promoting gender inclusivity in STEM through Innovate ME

Innovate ME intern, Deanna Cook, shares her experience interning in Thailand


Recently, Deanna Cook interned as a Partnership Support Officer with Education Development Center (EDC) in Thailand through Youth Challenge International’s (YCI) Innovate ME international youth internship program. Deanna shared one of her most memorable experiences from her internship supporting and promoting gender inclusivity in STEM.

Envisioning a more inclusive world

While I was working with EDC in Thailand, I had the opportunity to participate in an interactive professional development event focused on women’s empowerment. Co-hosted by Cisco Thailand and USAID Asia, the event helped women “imagine their possible.”

It took place at the Cisco Thailand headquarters and was co-hosted by USAID Asia and Wedu Global. Over the course of the afternoon, a group of about 2 dozen women came together to learn, network and engage to grow their careers to the next level.

Workshop participants discussing the future of STEM at Women of Impact.

EDC led the group in an “S.O.S.” icebreaker, encouraging them to envision their ideal world. The group then joined the live web conference and heard from an inspiring panel of women leaders in tech. The broadcast was a great way to connect with women who have paved the w

ay in a predominantly male-dominated industry and to shed some light on the opportunities available to women and girls in STEM.

Wrap-up and insights

Following the conference, participants rotated through a series of mini-workshops led by the hosting organizations. Cisco HRconducted a session on personal and professional branding, Wedu Global held small group discussions on mentorship, and Cisco engineers led an office tour showcasing innovative equipment and tech solutions they use in the workplace.

At the end of the day, attendees were given Women of Impact tote bags from Cisco, notebooks and office supplies from USAID, and a mentorship and personal development toolkit from Wedu. EDC then asked attendees to share what they liked about the event, what they learned, and what they wished for in the future.  

The response to Women of Impact was overwhelmingly positive. Fellow YCI Innovate ME intern, Clara Tam, said that her biggest takeaway was that “women are strong, diverse and eager to grow in STEM!” EDC was thrilled to play a part in this global movement, and to work with their multinational partners in advancing gender inclusivity in the lower Mekong region.

YCI’s commitment to gender equality

The Women of Impact event in Thailand is just one way that YCI and Innovate ME interns support gender equality around the globe. Earlier this year, Innovate ME interns also had the opportunity to attend two women’s empowerment events in Djibouti, which advocated for the equal involvement of women in technical and industrial fields of study.

YCI supports the advancement of women and women’s economic empowerment throughout all its solutions. Recognizing that women face unique challenges in accessing skills development opportunities, the EQWIP HUBs project helped break down these barriers. On-site daycare and transportation support was provided and women-only, safe spaces were created, as well as enlisting female entrepreneurs to act as mentors, to focus on empowerment and confidence-building.

Vanessa Parlette, a YCI volunteer with the EMBRACE project, shared how they “actively worked with male and female adults and youth to challenge traditional gender roles.” Mass outreach and large community events promoted male involvement in Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) and the benefits of equality in relationships and decision-making.

YCI’s HerStart initiative focuses on economic empowerment to advance women globally for an equal and more prosperous economy. The HerStart approach begins at the source of inequalities, working in partnership to provide accessible, innovative resources and create a positive, sustainable economic ripple effect. Sign up for our newsletter for more information and how to get involved with HerStart in 2020.

This is gender equality in action. Through YCI’s innovative solutions, interns like Deanna and volunteers like Vanessa have had the opportunity to work at the grassroots level with communities and help create meaningful change.

About Deanna

Deanna Cook was born and raised in Whitby, Ontario. She received a Bachelor of Commerce in International Management, International Development, and French from McGill University and studied abroad at ESADE Business School in Spain. After graduation, she interned with a small charity in Canada conducting an entrepreneurship training program for women artisans in Bolivia, then moved to Taiwan, where she taught English for two years. In early 2017, Deanna moved to Tanzania, where she spent two years working with grassroots non-profits, schools, and local businesses in the community. She dreams of one day running her own business in the social impact sector and is excited about what she learned from Youth Challenge International and Education Development Center through the Innovate ME internship program.


Want to intern overseas, develop your career and make a difference? Apply for YCI’s Innovate ME international youth internship program today.

Click here to learn more about Innovate ME


Innovate ME is generously funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada. 


About Innovate ME
Youth Challenge International’s Innovate ME program focuses on career transformation and is designed to significantly enhance youth employability in Canada and abroad, providing the tools, resources, experience and coaching to take careers to the next level. Implemented in partnership with Global Affairs Canada (GAC), Innovate ME provides employment training prior to departure, career coaching during internship placement, and career transition support and networking opportunities upon return to Canada.