The 18-month mentoring program began in late March with an orientation workshop, where participants learned more about the program and what would be expected of them. They then spent three weeks in Maryland shadowing successful female entrepreneurs and participating in workshops, panel discussions, networking events and roundtable meetings. The group also visited business incubators in the state, including the Emerging Technology Centers in Baltimore, the NeoTech Incubator in Columbia and the Rockville Innovation Center in Rockville.
Upon their return to South Africa, the women will be mentored for an additional 17 months by Maxum staff or the Cape IT Initiative, a networking and cluster development agency for the Western Cape's ICT sector mentorship program, as well as successful businesswomen in South Africa and the U.S.
According to the program's recruitment brochure, "This programme will develop a kernel of young women ICT entrepreneurs who will serve as role models for other women considering starting their own businesses in this industry. … In addition, it is expected that long-term relationships among and between U.S. and South African women who participated in the program, as well as ongoing linkages between U.S. and South African companies and incubators, will be established as a result of this program."
Program partners are the Meridian International Center, the University of Maryland Baltimore County's Center for Women in Information Technology, and Maryland Women in Technology. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of State Office of Citizen Exchanges, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
This article originally appeared in the May 2008 edition of the iReview, an online news and information portal for members of the National Business Incubation Association.