January 21, 2022

A “GEM” of a Program for Women in Science

Donor Rosalyn August’s Girls Empowerment Mission

One female scientist traced her inspiration to watching X-Men use their superhuman powers for peace. Others talked about being nerds in high school, or life as women in science. They shared their stories at the Technion 6th Tech Women event, which had plenty of real-life women superheroes, including event founder, Rosalyn August.

“You are doing things in science, technology, medicine, and mathematics that at one time were considered a man’s world,” Ms. August told the 1,300 high school students gathered virtually for the event. “But it’s not so. I’m proud to tell you that I applaud you, I follow you, I watch you.”

The American Technion Society donor launched the Rosalyn August Girls Empowerment Mission (GEM) at the Technion in 2016 to expose female high school students to opportunities offered by an education in engineering. Through GEM, she sponsors the yearly Tech Women event, where science-minded students from across Israel typically visit the campus for inspiring activities with accomplished Technion women.

This year, a particularly impressive roster of speakers topped the bill, including high-level Technion scientists, acclaimed alumni startup founders, and even an Israel Defense Forces Award laureate. They spoke of challenges such as being the only woman in the physics class or the boardroom, a journey with which Ms. August is completely familiar.

Ms. August comes from a family of retailers. Her father was in the jewelry business, and nearly 10 of 50 stores on Main Street in her small Virginia town were owned by relatives. She recalled talking with her friends about hair styling, makeup, and retail trends. One day, at age nine, remains seared in her memory. She and her then 18-year-old brother were standing with their father in the jewelry store, when her brother broke the news that he had no interest in following their father into the family business.

“My father was shocked. How could he think of doing anything else,” Ms. August recalled. “I said, ‘that’s not a problem, Dad. I can do it.’” But her father laughed, telling her that business was a man’s world, and one in which she would not be welcome. “That planted the seed for me.”

Ms. August earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Syracuse University, where she discovered a passion for history. She combined that interest with her knowledge of the jewelry business to open (with her father’s blessing) an antique and estate jewelry business called the Diamond & Jewelry Exchange.

“But there was another dream I had from the time I was young,” she told the students. “I wanted to be a mother.” She confided she wasn’t sure she could do both: “I’m happy to report, yes I did,” she said. “And I’m happy for you because you can be whatever it is you choose to be.”

After retiring, she became involved with the Technion. She had heard a female faculty member say that most of her colleagues were men, “and the wheels in my head started turning,” she said in an interview in 2018. She was moved that the Technion had made gender equality a top priority. Though she lacks an aptitude for science, “I believe science is our future,” she said. So when the Technion presented her with the opportunity to establish the GEM program, it was a perfect fit.

I’m paying it forward. Making it possible for these girls to go to the Technion and see what it’s all about. Then they can become astrophysicists and go on to change the world.” – Roz August

Ms. August is a member of the American Technion Society National Board of Directors and the South Palm Beach Leadership Council. She has also recently become a Guardian, an honor reserved for those who support the Technion at the highest levels.

 

A message from Roz August to the attendees of the 2020 Women in Tech program at the Technion.