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Getting More Girls Into Tech: ‘’She Can STEM’’ and Beyond

February 22, 2019 No Comments

Featured article by Nina Ritz, Technical Researcher & Writer with DesignRush

girls 300x225 Getting More Girls Into Tech: ‘’She Can STEM’’ and Beyond Source: unsplash.com

 “If girls can see it, they can be it.”

This is one of the statements behind the Ad Council’s “She Can STEM” campaign, which was launched this week. Created in partnership with Google, Microsoft, Verizon, IBM, and GE, as well as a number of organizations (such as Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code), the ad campaign seeks to tackle one of the root causes of gender disparity in STEM-related industries – the lack of female role models and mentorship.

The ads, which will be featured on a number of platforms, show an inspiring array of women with careers in STEM talking to middle school-aged girls about what they do. The age group is no coincidence either: the campaign specifically targets the well-known issue of girls losing interest and the confidence to pursue STEM subjects and careers by the time they get to high school.

“I wasn’t a math genius and I knew nothing about coding,” Bonnie Ross, the head of the Halo Game Studio at Microsoft, tells a group of young girls in one of the videos. “But you guys do. You have the power to change things.”

As a woman in tech and someone who’s still realizing her potential as a mentor, I have to admit I was absolutely moved by the ads.

“Wow, I want to have your job!” one of the girls excitedly tells Bonnie.

“I want you to have my job!”

And I couldn’t help but reflect on my own experiences growing up and finding my place as a software engineer. What I find the most profound and enticing about this campaign is not the obvious encouragement and inspiration but the fact that it opens another dialogue – the dialogue of how we’re shaping girls’ interests from early childhood.

There has been some talk about how closing the tech gender gap starts at a very young age. The formative years of early childhood essentially shape how we perceive ourselves and the world around us. When the opportunities to break gender barriers in early childhood are missed, it naturally takes more work to instill confidence in girls to pursue the fields in which they already feel boys have a head start.

This is an issue to think about for the coming generations of parents and kids – and it is essentially a driving force to truly rethink the wiring of our society. What I’m trying to get at is that the dialogue starts long before a child even conceives the notion of “a career”, let alone the concept of gender equality. It starts with parents and kindergarten teachers, only to continue through middle school and beyond.

A study by the Institution of Engineering and Technology has shown that parents’ outdated perceptions of gender roles in jobs could be limiting children’s future career decisions, and this comes as no surprise at all. This is a difficult issue to tackle and overcome because it means that the focus largely needs to shift to educating adults who have long held to their preconceived notions – and who need to understand how their (subconscious) bias is shaping their daughters’ perception of self.

Of course, that’s not to say that all is lost if a girl played only with dolls throughout her childhood or grew up believing careers like engineering are for boys. Initiatives such as the “She can STEM” campaign, the introduction of arts in STEM teaching, and numerous others are making a strong case of showing how the confidence to pursue these fields can be built in later years with a fresh approach. When it comes to the tech field specifically, I’m delighted to see how the various organization-led workshops teach the girls how coding, for example, is not work or a goal in itself – it’s a valuable skill they can put to use to help them pursue their passions.

And it’s this kind of mindset that we need in order to empower girls and eventually close the gender gap in tech. For example, the field of mobile app development has emphasized the need for diversity in teams in order to create better products, with the best app development companies already relying on the involvement of women to ensure they have the diverse work culture that’s vital to innovation. Tech companies need women, not for the sake of statistics but to reach their innovative potential and to approach problem-solving from all angles. Girls are realizing this, and we’re bringing down the stereotypes of the “computer geek” – which by the way, is obviously not doing any favors to young boys either. But that’s another topic.

Profound change is going to take time. But we’re taking leaps just by turning the focus to the underlying psychological motivators – namely, the perception of self. Hopefully, with time, we’ll be seeing generations of young girls who don’t feel like they’re trying to infiltrate a male-dominated profession or pursue a “non-girly” interest. That’s when we’ll know the playing field is leveled. If they can see it, they can be it.

 Getting More Girls Into Tech: ‘’She Can STEM’’ and Beyond

Nina is a technical researcher & writer with DesignRush, a B2B marketplace connecting brands with agencies. She loves to share her experiences and meaningful content that educates and inspires people. Her main interests are web design and marketing. In her free time, when she’s away from the computer, she likes to do yoga and ride a bike. You can find her on twitter

 

 

 

 

 

 

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