Americans energized by Tekla’s empowering message

Girls from the Washington, D.C. area immersed themselves in electronics during the workshop at the international launch of Tekla Festival. (Photo: David Callahan)
Published Mar 14, 2019

Sanna Cedergren, KTH’s project leader for Tekla Festival, has just returned from Washington, D.C., where singer and Tekla founder Robyn joined KTH and the Swedish Institute in a global launch for the popular technical festival for girls.

Nearly 30 girls, ages 11-15, were invited to participate in an afternoon of technical exploration with workshop leader Caroline Dahl of the RISE research institute in Stockholm. The girls worked with LED lighting, batteries and electronic circuits to assemble illuminating balloons and wearables.

Tekla Dialogue featured Robyn and women in technology.

They also listened to a motivational speaker, entrepreneur and former NASA engineer Aisha Bowe, who urged them to “out-dream yourselves daily”.

On the following day, Robyn engaged in a panel, called “Tekla Dialogue,” which focused on the subject of creating opportunities for women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The Dialogue panel included representatives of Spotify, Amazon, Skanska, Accenture, Georgetown University, University of Maryland, the U.S. National Science Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Academy of Engineering and the World Bank.

Aisha Bowe recounted how she opted for rocket engineering over becoming a cosmetologist.

Cedergren says the project is part of the Swedish Institute’s mandate to strengthen the image of Sweden abroad. “Tekla contributes with knowledge about how to inspire girls to take an interest in technology,” she says.

With the successful pilot workshop in Washington, Tekla is being packaged in a format offered by the Swedish Institute, to be arranged in other parts of the world, such as India, the Americas, China, Africa and elsewhere in Europe.

“We also want to engage international KTH alumni in the project. This autumn, the Tekla Festival will be at home at KTH's campus in Södertälje, she adds.

Three questions for Sanna Cedergren

What was the idea behind Tekla Dialogue?

“Tekla Dialogue is a new format for knowledge sharing. We’re good in Sweden, but we can’t do everything. The U.S. has for example a leading university where

Sanna Cedergren in Washington, D.C.

more women than men are studying engineering. We want an exchange of ideas and to learn from other countries.”

Why is it hard to attract girls to technical subjects?

“That’s a complex question. One thing we discussed in Washington was the so-called imposter syndrome. Girls have learned to second-guess themselves, in order to be sure that they already are capable before moving on. That could be a underlying cause.”

The handbags that KTH was passing out at the event got a lot of attention.

“People were coming up to me and saying, ‘I love your bag,’” Cedergren says, referring to the KTH handbags that are printed with the student recruiting slogan: “The future is too important to be left to men.”

“They were asking where they could order one – it was a spontaneous reaction from participants at the event, and people around town – a journalist from the Washington Post, young women, people in the audience at Robyn’s concert at the Anthem. The bag became a symbol of the global launch of Tekla. It’s clear and relevant,” she says.

Mats Paulsen 

Belongs to: News & Events
Last changed: Mar 14, 2019