Start early to get girls hooked on tech careers

Posted on Aug 28, 2019 ::
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Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It’s no secret men outnumber women in IT careers, but research shows when female students are exposed to technology and mentorship before starting formal IT classes, they arrive with the confidence, motivation and support to succeed and continue their interest in tech careers. Programs from Women in Technology and other organizations are looking to
do just that.

It’s something I heard firsthand while attending WIT’s recent annual meeting. WIT President Adrienne Hartman, director of e-commerce and inbound sales at J. J. Keller & Associates, began talking about Grace Vanden Heuvel, a sophomore at Hortonville High School. Grace was in sixth grade when she saw a flyer at school for the Hortonville Girls Who Code club. She was interested but not sure if she should sign up. Grace credits her mother and the supportive women leading the club with giving her the confidence to enroll.

“As a sixth-grader, it was empowering to see female adults and high schoolers confident in technology and leading the club,” she says. “I thought, ‘If I’m good at this, I won’t be alone.’”

Participating in Girls Who Code encouraged her to get involved in other coding and technology programs, including signing up for the AP Computer Science A class and participating in her school’s FIRST Robotics team as a freshman. Grace, who eventually wants to become a software engineer or programmer, was an intern this past summer for the NEW IT Alliance and attended a Focus on Software Engineering and Computer Science Camp at Milwaukee School of Engineering. She also earned the Wisconsin NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing, which was sponsored by the National Center for Women & Information Technology and Hortonville High School.

How can Grace’s success be replicated by other young women? The key is to get schools to offer more tech programs, such as WIT4Girls, which created a reusable curriculum to make training and teaching easy. Another option is getting them involved through Code.org programs, including the annual Hour of Code campaign. Code.org also has curriculum available online that educators or volunteers can tap for school programs. In addition, Girl Scouts of the USA offers STEM-related programs that allow girls to learn more about technology.

With the demand rising for IT workers and the digitization of the economy, it makes more sense than ever to encourage girls and young women to explore their interests in technology. It’s something everyone can be a part of. If you’re a parent, inquire at your kids’ school about some of the programs mentioned earlier, and if they aren’t available, team up with others to start something at your school. If you’re a business owner, look for ways you can partner with organizations seeking to get girls more interested in technology. Your future workforce will thank you.