Pop Star Robyn Empowers Girls in Tech at First International Tekla Festival

You may know Swedish recording artist Robyn for her hits “Dancing On My Own” and “Missing U,” but she’s also the voice of a movement supporting young women and girls in STEM fields through her initiative, the Tekla Festival. This past weekend, Robyn took Tekla to the Embassy of Sweden in Washington, DC, to inspire girls to explore technology and challenge norms and stereotypes.

The two-day event, the Tekla Dialogue, began with an invitation to girls, ages 11-14, who live in disadvantaged areas, to experiment with technology and engage with speakers and role models. It was followed by panel discussions on Saturday that addressed pertinent questions, such as: Who gets to shape our future? What are the roles and responsibilities in closing the gender gap?

Workshop for girls ages 11-14 hosted by Caroline Dahl, Chairman of Makers of Sweden

Robyn was joined by Ann Linde, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Trade; Leslie Cruz, CEO of STEMconnector; Yamilée Toussaint Beach, Founder and CEO of STEM From Dance; Kate Rabinowitz, Reporter at the Washington Post; Aerica Shimizu Banksa, Cofounder of BEACON: The DC Women Founders Initiative; Tom Manatos, Vice President of Government Relations for Spotify; and Caroline Dahl, PhD, Technology Innovator, RISE and Chairman of Makers of Sweden, to discuss these issues across two riveting panels. The moderator for the event was none other than Natalia Brzezinski, the CEO of Brilliant Minds Foundation and host of the Brilliant Minds Podcast on Spotify.

Aerica Shimizu Banksa, Cofounder of BEACON: The DC Women Founders Initiative

Together, they addressed the underrepresentation of women in technology and explored various solutions. Read on for several of their thoughts.

“If you don’t feel like you can mirror yourself in someone and if you don’t feel seen, you can’t learn. And that’s the most important part about Tekla.” — Robyn

Center: Robyn, singer and founder of Tekla

“Our team did a survey and asked women, ‘What’s the biggest barrier to success in tech?’ We found that by far, the most regular response was that they don’t have enough role models. That even if they had the capital and time, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. And that’s something we need to solve.” —  Leslie Cruz, CEO of STEMconnector

“It’s critical to have various voices represented in our work. Conversations that exclude a diverse set of opinions lead to worse products and worse innovation. That’s a tangible problem impacting our immediate future.” — Tom Manatos, Vice President of Government Relations for Spotify

L-R: Natalia Brzezinski, Leslie Cruz, Kate Rabinowitz, Aerica Shimizu Banksa, Tom Manatos

“Given the right opportunity and the right resources, you have the opportunity to change not only your life, but a generation.” — Veni Kunche, web developer and entrepreneur

With mic: Veni Kunche

The Brilliant Minds Podcast celebrates entrepreneurial thinking and creativity through conversations with musicians, artists, fashion icons, creators, and tech founders about using their voices to knock down barriers. Take a listen: