Ghanaian technology entrepreneur receives Buffett Institute award, discusses career in STEM


Oreste Visentini/The Daily Northwestern

Ghanaian tech entrepreneur Regina Honu speaks at Scott Hall on Tuesday. Honu spoke about introducing more girls to STEM and using technology to “better” Ghana.

Julia Esparza, Reporter

A cartoon of a man who used a rocket strapped to his back to fly inspired Ghanaian technology entrepreneur Regina Honu to make a rocket for herself. When she presented her creation to a teacher, he told her, “Girls don’t build rockets.”

Honu, who is now the founder of a Ghanaian software development company and advocate for girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, received the Buffett Institute for Global Studies’ award for emerging global leaders Tuesday in Scott Hall. Buffett Institute director Bruce Carruthers said by presenting recipients with the $10,000 award, the institute hopes to celebrate and encourage the recipients’ initiatives.

“The idea is to recognize someone who is at the early stages of their career and to bolster someone and further their career, to energize it,” Carruthers said.

In addition to founding her company Soronko Solutions, Honu also created the Soronko Foundation, an organization that provides role models, resources and a space primarily for girls in Ghana to facilitate their interests in STEM.

Since its creation, Honu said the foundation now has more than 2,000 mentees and more than 200 mentors.

Honu was born in Ghana, where she said she was told at a young age that girls would end up in a kitchen, not working in technology. She said the video game Pacman inspired her to learn how to code. She later went to Ashesi University, one of the top universities in Ghana, Carruthers said.

While there, Honu said she was one of three girls in a computer science course and the only woman in the IT department at the software company where she began her career.

Honu said she was motivated to start the foundation both by her desire to bring more girls into STEM and her passion to “better Ghana.” She said she had seen how her country relied on other nations for aid and assistance and she believed it was time Ghana solve its own problems.

According to the Buffett Institute’s website, undergraduate affiliates of the institute nominate individuals for the award who they feel have made a large impact in fields of global significance. SESP senior Diane Arthur nominated Honu and said she was first introduced to Honu’s work while studying abroad in Ghana.

“She is rewriting the narrative around technology and women empowerment in a society that is both developing and largely patriarchal,” Arthur said.

Arthur told The Daily that Honu’s story was very relatable because the entrepreneur put her “if I could do anything in the world” dreams into action.

Buffet Institute program manager for undergraduate initiatives Emory Erker-Lynch told The Daily she’s not surprised Honu was chosen for the award.

“I recognize she is someone who is not only inspiring this generation of young people in Ghana, but she also has a lot Northwestern undergraduates could learn from her,” Erker-Lynch told The Daily.

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