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International Women's Day (IWD) is a global holiday celebrated annually on March 8, bringing attention to women’s rights, gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.

Rice360 Institute for Global Health Technologies would like to uplift women and girls all over the world who are passionate about global health and help create a world driven by innovation, equity, community, integrity, accountability, empowerment and transformation.

This International Women’s Day, we look within our institute and interview three women who are not only leaders but are passionate and dedicated experts committed to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, has equitable access to quality health care. We hope their words inspire women everywhere.

Ashley Taylor, PhD, MPH

Director of Education at Rice360

“I am passionate about cultivating education ecosystems that empower students and faculty both here at Rice University and with partners all around the world to solve local and global challenges. I so firmly believe that students have the power to solve the most pressing issues of our time if they have the resources to do it; that’s what I’m really passionate about.” – Ashley Taylor

Interviewer: Who do you consider your role model and why?

Ashley Taylor: I would say one of my greatest role models is my mom. My mom is such a strong woman, and is also incredibly kind. I think being both strong and kind is something we should all aspire to do.

Interviewer: Can you describe some obstacles you have overcome in your career? And what are some goals you are currently working towards?

Ashley Taylor: After years of being a woman in engineering, I've learned that it’s so important for us to show up as our authentic selves—to bring our lived experiences, our passions, and who we are at our core into our work. It can be hard to be authentic and show up, but I know that the world needs all of us to solve problems with the best of our intellect, the best of our experiences, and the best of our minds and our hearts. For me, that’s been the biggest lesson: we need to show up as ourselves, and we need to make space for other people to do that; we need all of us at the table solving challenges.

Interviewer: How did you start your career in global health and do you have any advice for aspiring young women?

Ashley Taylor: Mentors helped propel me into the global health field by illuminating the intersection of engineering and global health and helping me see myself and my passions for those paths. Also, my undergraduate research provided valuable exposure to this intersection and allowed me to gain hands-on experience.

I am so deeply grateful to the mentors both in my undergraduate journey and to those I have met in Malawi. My mentors showed me possibilities, and the impact engineers can have on global health. By illuminating those opportunities for engineers to be a part of global health, I really saw myself in those spaces, and I’m so grateful to the mentors that showed me those opportunities. Theresa Mkandawire, for example, is an amazing woman in engineering and is now one of our partners leading invention education in Malawi as part of NEST360.

An entry point, and a bit of encouragement to people looking to enter the field, is to pursue meaningful relationships with mentors. Listening and learning from the experiences of trusted mentors was key. I also think very practically, for me, undergraduate research was a great way to experience and learn what I was genuinely passionate about and not passionate about. One thing I tell our students now is if you try a research experience or an internship and you don’t love it, that’s okay. That gives you more information to steer in the direction you are passionate about.

I would like to echo the same thing I said earlier. If I could give one piece of advice to my former self a decade ago—it would be the strongest, most encouraging piece of advice I also could give to students or young women now—Be yourself! Be authentic! The only way we’re going to solve the most pressing and urgent challenges of our time is if we have a team full of people contributing the best of their experiences. But, in order to do that effectively, we all must be authentic. So be authentic, be yourself, bring your lived experience to the table and find those spaces that support you.

Elizabeth “Betsy” Asma, MSc

Director of Technology Development at Rice360

“I am the Director of Technology Development at Rice360, and I support the engineering, design, development, and clinical implementation of health technologies. I support young engineers both in Houston and at our partner countries to help them focus their efforts in global health engineering and make opportunities for them to learn and grow their skills.” – Betsy Asma

Interviewer: Who do you consider your role model and why?