Exchange Matters / December 29, 2017

Global Ties Network Hosts: “Hidden No More” Exchange Participants

This past fall, 10 Global Ties U.S. Community-Based Members hosted 48 women from 48 countries as part of the new U.S. Department of State International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) exchange, “Hidden No More: Empowering Women in

Hidden No More participants visit the Greensboro Forge Maker Space. Photo credit: NC Global Leadership

The program was launched to support and cultivate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The exchange program emerged in response to the global popularity of the film Hidden Figures, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. It tells the story of African American women working at NASA in the 1960s who overcame discrimination to help send the first American astronaut into space.

Following the film’s successful release in 2016, the U.S. Department of State received more than 100 requests for film screenings at U.S. embassies and cultural centers around the world. This prompted the launch of the exchange project.


Participants travel, meet with CBMs and local officials

For three weeks, participants traveled across the United States to meet with universities, STEM professionals, and women-oriented organizations like the Girls Scouts to discuss STEM-related topics and policies, as well as related issues such diversity and inclusion in STEM fields.

Participants at the STEM Early College in Greensboro. Photo credit: NC Global Leadership.

At the program’s launch event on October 12 in Washington, DC, Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan noted: “We know that we have more to do to remove barriers to women in STEM. Our fundamental belief is that when women do better, families do better, countries do better, and the world does better.”

Participants included Nana Saleh, Secretary General of the Indonesian Young Academy of Sciences; Persis Mbangsi, a chemical engineer from Cameroon; Johanna Johnson Contreras, the founder of a science exploration workshop series in Peru; and Vinitha Thadhani, a researcher at the Sri Lankan Institute of Nanotechnology; and others.

All of the “Hidden No More” participants started their visit in Washington, DC and ended in Los Angeles, CA, where they were hosted by the International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA). Between these two locations, they split into smaller groups where they were hosted by CBMs in Albuquerque, NM (Global Ties ABQ), Chicago, IL (WorldChicago), Greensboro, NC (NC Global Leadership), Lincoln, NE (Lincoln Council for International Visitors), Louisville, KY (World Affairs Council of Kentucky & Southern Indiana), Pensacola, FL (Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council), Seattle, WA (World Affairs Council of Seattle), Syracuse, NY (International Center of Syracuse), and Tulsa, OK (Tulsa Global Alliance).

Participants have some fun at the Explora Science Center in Albuquerque, NM. Photo credit: Global Ties ABQ


In Pensacola, FL, visitors met with Dr. Megan Pratt, the Founder and Executive Director of MESS Hall. This museum offers a hands-on approach and allows guests to create their own experiments. In Omaha, NE, they met with the leaders of the Omaha STEM Ecosystem, an interdisciplinary approach to STEM that engages with the entire community to provide learning opportunities for all ages.

In Greensboro, NC, seven participants from Cameroon, China, France, Kosovo, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan visited the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering, Forge Greensboro Makerspace, STEM Early College, Greensboro Science Center, the NC State Fair, and the International Civil Rights Museum.

“The group had a terrific time on a busy and productive program,” said Beth Roberson, Executive Director of NC Global Leadership, who noted that the visitors were most impressed with the poise and confidence of the girls in the STEM program at the STEM Early College.

“I remember how impressed they were with the presentation skills of the high school girls,” added Minnie Battle Mayes, Program Officer and board member of NC Global Leadership. “They were surprised to see that was part of their STEM curriculum and they realized how important that level of communication and confidence are.”

Participants at the Forge Greensboro Makerspace. Photo credit: Beth Robertson

Back to Hollywood

The trip concluded with a visit to 21st Century Fox, the studio that produced the movie. On the lot, participants toured the Fox Innovation Lab and joined a panel discussion with women from Fox, SpaceX, and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

While Hidden Figures inspired global audiences with the story of three pioneering African American women in the 1960s, the U.S. Department of State exchange program provided an opportunity for modern women to share their stories and ensure that their contributions to STEM and society are hidden no more.

Learn how 48 women in STEM from 48 different countries came together through a State Department exchange program to advocate for gender equality and build a global network supporting women and girls in STEM. 

This article was written by Aimee Seligstein, Public Diplomacy Intern, Global Ties U.S.