Daniela Staicu, first person from left, back row, along with the other Fulbright Scholar and Humphrey Fellow attendees, spent time with Ivanka Trump, center, fifth from right, front row, adviser to the president; and Marie Royce, sixth from left, front row, assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs; during the Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative launch.
On Feb. 7, 2019, President Donald Trump signed an Oval Office memorandum to fund the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative (W-GDP), the first-ever, United States government-wide program to economically empower women around the world.
At the launch, Ivanka Trump hosted a roundtable of 24 participants ranging from Wilbur Ross, U.S. secretary of commerce, and Henriette Fore, executive director of UNICEF, to Humphrey Fellows and Fulbright Scholars.
Daniela Staicu, a Romanian Fulbright Scholar currently at Penn State completing research with the School of Engineering Design, Technology, and Professional Programs’ Humanitarian Engineering and Social Entrepreneurship (HESE) program, was among those invited to attend the initiative’s unveiling.
“They gathered female global entrepreneurship researchers and entrepreneurs who are here in the States. The idea is that we serve as ambassadors for the program in our home countries,” she said.
Staicu is a doctoral candidate in business administration with a focus on social entrepreneurship at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania. There, she focuses her research on social entrepreneurship in the textile industry – its tradition in Romania and the trade’s changes in response to European law and the European Commission’s focus on recycling and reusing.
She also runs a social tailor shop in Bucharest, Merci Charity Boutique, which recycles men’s shirts into women’s purses. All proceeds from the shop are used to run a mobile dental clinic for children from rural areas.
Currently working with John Gershenson, HESE’s director, Staicu is assessing differences between male and female student engineers’ social entrepreneurial mindsets.
Staicu’s social entrepreneurship and research backgrounds align perfectly with the W-GDP’s three pillars, which are prospering in the workforce through workforce development, vocational education and skill training; women succeeding as entrepreneurs through access to capital, markets, networks and mentorship; and women enabled in the economy by removing restrictive legal, regulatory and cultural barriers. This match-up made her an ideal launch attendee.
“This is a kind of initiative that targets women, as an element that could help societies grow. The interest is in helping countries help themselves by supporting the women who are living there but are prevented from living up to their economic potential,” Staicu said.
While at the White House, she learned that the W-GDP will empower women in developing countries by provided them with opportunities to learn and craft their business skills, tying the U.S. initiative to the skills taught to students in HESE.
“Students here [at Penn State] are developing technical solutions in health care, agriculture and energy for people living in developing communities in Kenya, and more broadly in Africa,” Staicu said. “We [HESE] are using various educational frameworks with good results for venture development in which both female and males are involved.”
While at the White House, she was able to share information about HESE with the other attendees. While discussing HESE’s research and its contribution to entrepreneurial mindset growth, Staicu was able to highlight that HESE’s ventures are predominantly women-led.
“It [the women-led majority] gives us the opportunity to research how women engineers and leaders behave differently than male engineers and leaders, especially on social ventures,” she said.
Research results from this study will be available at the end of this academic year.
“We will have more knowledge on how to empower women leaders – not just opening and running a business, but inspiring other people to do so as well,” she said.
Through the influential network created at the launch and her research with HESE, Staicu hopes to improve entrepreneurship education and opportunities for women at Penn State, at home in Romania and in the greater global community.
“In HESE we see that an association between technical skills and business skills as related to helping society is more attractive to women. It could be one way to attract more women into engineering,” she said. “It’s an important subject and researchers are looking into how to attract women towards this profession. We are sitting on a solution right here at Penn State and we need to understand how to spread the word and how to scale it.”