Editor’s note: This sponsored article is published in partnership with Kennesaw State University’s Division of Global Affairs. 

University students in Morocco and Kennesaw engaged in an innovative virtual exchange program are seeking to interview Georgia businesswomen about the challenges women face in leadership positions in both of their countries.

The online program is to be spearheaded by Kennesaw State University (KSU) and Hassan II University of Casablanca (H2UC), said Dan Paracka, a professor of interdisciplinary studies at KSU.

The two-year Women’s Leadership Virtual Exchange program is set to launch with a cross-cultural webinar, “Women’s Leadership: Driving Change,” on Wed., Oct. 28, at 11 a.m. Eastern time, 4 p.m. Moroccan time. Registration for the webinar is free and open to the public.

The webinar will feature women leaders from both regions, including H2UC President Aawtif Hayar; KSU President Pamela Whitten; Cobb Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Sharon Mason, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State, Caroline Casagrande.

The program will connect students via technology to courses, video conferences, and other forms of research, analysis and digital storytelling about women leaders. The program, which will continue through Spring 2022, is supported by a Stevens Initiative grant.

The goal is to help students better understand the challenges women face in leadership in different social settings, while also learning to communicate and collaborate with peers from different backgrounds and cultures.

Most of the virtual exchange is course-based, with classes being taught by KSU professors on the politics of the Middle East and North Africa, American identities, gender in the U.S. South and women’s leadership in technology.

“KSU is excited to participate in this Stevens Initiative virtual exchange project which brings young people in Morocco and the United States closer together. We strongly believe that this global learning initiative exemplifies the best practices for how 21st century higher education should be implemented,” said Dr. Paracka.

Cooperation between KSU and Morocco is not new, he noted. The partnership began in 2005 under the leadership of then-KSU President Betty Siegel and then-H2UC President Rahma Bourquia. Some joint projects have included:

  • Creation of a Master’s degree program in American Studies at Hassan II University
  • Creation of the Ben M’sik Community Museum (BMCM) in Casablanca
  • Exhibits on “Morocco in World War II” and “Morocco, the United States & the Slave Trade”
  • Participation in Morocco’s Annual International University Theater Festival in Casablanca (FITUC)
  • Funding of a KSU Strategic Internationalization Grant to interview and conduct research on women leaders in Morocco
  • Designation of the 2018-2019 academic year as the “Year of Morocco” at KSU

The exchange program is inspired by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which call for, among other objectives, the elimination of gender disparities in education (Goal 4), gender equality and women’s equal access to economic and political leadership roles (Goal 5), inclusive economic growth and productive employment for all (Goal 8) and the replacement of discriminatory policies with inclusive institutions (Goal 10).

Women in Morocco have made great strides in gender equality, including achieving favorable changes in the country’s Family Code, Labor Code, Nationality Law and women’s access to positions of power. Seven Moroccan women were recently named among the Middle East’s 100 Power Businesswomen 2020 by Forbes Magazine, exemplifying a rise in women’s business leadership in the region.

But progress in women’s leadership has been mixed. In the U.S., though women earn 60 percent of all master’s degrees and have risen in the ranks of business leadership in the past few decades, they account for only 5 percent of the country’s Fortune 500 CEOs and less than 10 percent of the top management positions in S&P 1500 companies, according to the Center for American Progress.

The KSU-Hassan project aims to engage young people in meaningful discussion on these types of issues and to collaborate on ways to elevate women’s leadership in both Morocco and the U.S.

Women business leaders interested in being interviewed by university students as part of the virtual exchange program should contact Dr. Paracka at dparacka@kennesaw.edu.

The Oct. 28 kick-off webinar is free and open to the public. Register here