Message from Asumi Saito, co-founder, on her retirement
We are pleased to announce that Asumi Saito, co-founder of the NPO Waffle, will be stepping down. We would like to post a message to everyone on the occasion of her resignation.
I, Asumi Saito, will graduate from Waffle on July 31, 2023. I would like to thank the many people who have helped me since November 2019, when I joined Waffle as a volunteer while holding a full time job, until today. I have been running hard until today to create a “place where girls can go and learn programming anytime they want”, which at that time was not a single place in Japan yet. As a result, I feel that in the past three and a half years, I have been able to lead unimaginably large programs and changes in society. Once again, I would like to thank my co-founder, Sayaka Tanaka, all the members, and the many people who have supported us from the outside who have run with us.
I began creating Waffle Camp the day I retired from my last job in 2020, led the operation of Technovation Girls as our first large-group program in 2021, and created Waffle College, our first program for college students, in 2022. Many a day has been spent worrying for days, many a day has been spent filling up whiteboards with my peers, and many a day has been spent putting our heads together on the best strategies for advancing girls’ education in a country with the lowest gender gap index rank in the OECD.
During that time, I was given the opportunity to give many speeches and make policy recommendations to educate society about girls’ education to close the gender gap in the IT field. I have learned a lot about organizational building as well as business development, and have been walking through the process of trial and error. We also deepened the dialogue about gender and our role with our colleagues.
Thankfully, the team members we have gathered over the past three and a half years have given me confidence that the flame of Waffle is unlikely to be extinguished anytime soon. We have a wonderful group of teammates. I can proudly refer to each and every member of Waffle as a leader in the gender field. There is also a growing consensus in society about the importance of educating women in STEM fields.
It is time to rethink my mission.
I believe that one of Waffle’s roles is to create and expand best practices for the education of girls in STEM in Japanese society. We are a non-profit organization, not a corporation. Our success stories are not to be monopolized, but to give back to society. There are many organizations overseas that are working to close the gender gap in IT. Unfortunately, there are still very few in Japan. And since the culture and language are different between Japan and the West, where many practices are taken, we felt that a method in Japan was needed separately. I hope to be able to tell you about the method in a different way someday, but I think my next mission is to try to increase the ratio of women in IT outside of Waffle.
On the other hand, at Waffle, I was constantly reflecting on the immaturity of my technical background. From now on, the implementation of technology in society will advance more and more, and advanced technology will also advance day by day. In such a society, as a person who bridges the gap between technology and education, I felt the need to develop a higher level of technical background. I was told when I was a student that “in order to jump high, you need to have a good running start,” and it seems that the time has come (and I have often told this to our members) to prepare for the next stage of my career.
Of course, I have much unfinished work at Waffle, and I am not sure if leaving here is the right thing to do. However, I do believe that my colleagues here now will do more than I have accomplished. I may start preparing for the next big wave in the meantime, that’s how light-hearted I am now. Because we are and will always be working for women’s empowerment, with one mind and one heart, to close the gender gap in the IT field.
Finally, I love the field of science and technology! Not only IT, but there are many exciting things in this field. Also, we can leverage science and technology to make a big change in our society and environment. I hope that more girls and gender minorities will continue to be attracted to this field, have fun, and dive into the deep world. And I sincerely wish you all the best in your respective worlds.
Last but not least, I would like to once again thank the very many people who have helped us to this point. I will not list their names here, but I would like to contact each and every one of you. I would like to thank all of my predecessors who have worked hard to close the gender gap in Japanese society, those who have gently guided me from a place where I knew neither right nor left, and those who volunteered for Waffle to create our space together. I remember each and every one of student who participated in Waffle. And to my fellow team who have run this far, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks.
July 24th, 2023