Q&A with Regina Honu, 2017 Buffett Award Winner

October 31, 2016

Regina HonuOn October 22, the Buffett Institute announced Regina Agyare Honu as the 2017 winner of the Buffett Award. The Ghanaian software developer and social entrepreneur is the founder of Soronko Foundation, which runs several development programs in West Africa that teach youth how to code and use technology to solve social issues. She will come to Northwestern to give the Buffett Award annual lecture in April 2017.

Where does your passion for technology come from?

When I was 12 years old my father brought home a computer and I played Pac-Man. I fell in love with the game. But as time went on I wanted to make my own game. I discovered that the only way to do that was to learn to code. Technology is great tool that helps you leapfrog infrastructure gaps. I love that you can take an idea that solves a problem and build an application that is used by millions of people worldwide. I love that you can use technology and coding to drive social change. I believe we can change the single story of the African continent using technology to develop our human potential.

What do you think is the biggest challenge for women interested in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields today?

Social conditioning, stereotyping, and lack of information and role models. When girls are young in some parts of the world, they are told what their role is and what subjects they will do well in. Girls will hear things like science and technology is too difficult and it is for boys. With the lack of support and lack of information of the different opportunities in STEM fields, women and girls don't even consider STEM fields. For women and girls it is important to see role models, other women thriving in STEM fields.

I think the biggest challenge for women interested in STEM fields today is that it can be such a boys club that they may be discriminated against and have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. Women need to see and interact with role models–other women thriving in STEM–to demonstrate that they are not alone and can be successful.

The Buffett Award was created to honor and motivate emerging leaders. Do you have any advice or traits that you think are important for leaders who want to solve global problems?

Leadership is journey that requires passion, resilience, and not being afraid to fail. You have to mute the voice inside you that tells you are not good enough. You must realise that you are more than what you think you are. Step out of your comfort zone and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

What are you looking forward to during your spring 2017 visit to Northwestern? Is there anything you’d like students to know about you before you come?

I am looking forward to sharing my story and inspiring them to chase their dreams. I would like them to know that anyone can be a changemaker and a leader in their own way. I want them to know to be successful you must step out of you comfort zone. Lastly, if their dreams don't scare them, then they are not big enough.

Africa, Development, Technology, Undergraduate Students