Rida Bayraktar, 20 – FUNDED

New Face of Tech winner Rida Bayraktar wants to be an entrepreneur who creates educational products with emerging technologies. “I am proud to be redefining how a ‘tech person’ looks, and excited for the opportunities this scholarship brings for me and my organization [Pink STREAM],” she says. She’s studying Computer Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What does being the New Face of Tech mean to you?

As the New Face of Tech, I am redefining what a “tech person” looks like. I am also empowering women and minorities who feel excluded from the stereotypical image of a “tech guy.”

Women are underrepresented in STEAM. How can we change this?

We can increase women’s representation in STEAM by providing early exposure to young girls, so they can discover a STEAM passion early in their life. Traditional childhood education only provides STEAM education for boys with rockets, Legos, and cars. On the other hand, girls play with dolls, makeup toys, and kitchen items. This creates a gender gap because girls who are not familiar with STEAM topics feel unconfident to approach these concepts later in their lives. Therefore, I have founded Pink STREAM to provide early STEM exposure to K-8 girls. Since 2018, we have impacted more than 950 students through our educational programs in a variety of topics: robotics, coding, electronics, 3D printing, and more!

What are some of the challenges you have faced along the way?

Most of the time, I find myself alone in technical environments (classes, work, conferences, etc.), because I am different. I am a minority in my studies as a woman, but especially as a Hijabi Muslim woman. There are so many stereotypes associated with my identity that I constantly fall into the need of breaking the stereotypes and challenging people’s perspective of who I am. Often, this overwhelms me because it is a heavy and hard task to make people rethink and overcome their biases.

How do you stay motivated and focused on your goals?

I am teaching young girls coding, electronics, and robotics through my organization Pink STREAM. Feeling the girls’ excitement and passion for STEM motivates me. It also makes me realize that I need to learn more, achieve more, and be a role model for the next generation of powerful women in tech. I cannot just tell them, but also need to show them that nothing is impossible.

How will funding from the 1,000 Dreams Fund and HARMAN help you reach your goals?

It will support my entrepreneurial journey in growing Pink STREAM!