In 2020, when Bolor-Erdene Battsengel would walk into work in Ulan Bator’s national parliament building, security guards would stop her to ask if she was a personal assistant or a janitor. She was neither—she was the youngest member of the Mongolian government’s Cabinet, appointed to help lead the nation’s digital transformation.
This experience showed how challenging it can be for young women to lead. “You have to work extra hard to be accepted for who you are,” says Battsengel, 29, who now serves as state secretary for the Ministry of Digital Development.
Hard work is what took Battsengel from a rural town on the Mongolian steppe to the center of government. When she was 14 she completed high school. She then attended college at 18 and continued her education at Oxford University.
In 2020, Battsengel helped launch the E-Mongolia platform, which has since digitized 650 government services, making it easier for Mongolians to register a company or get a driver’s license. “Now you can access any government service in less than two minutes, and there is no physical contact needed,” she says. In a country like this, nomadic herders might have to travel hours just to complete simple tasks.
Battsengel also believes in making places more welcoming to women. “The new inequality is digital exclusion,” she says. In 2021, she founded a Girls for Coding boot camp, which has provided training and laptops to 30 girls from the countryside; she plans to train 50 this year. These women will be able to walk in the door and not have to answer her questions, she hopes. “We need more female leaders who are younger and dynamic,” she says.
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