Inside TSheets

Women's achievements in tech start with empowering girls in STEM

Dorothy Chong | February 22, 2019

How TSheets and the SheTech conference are helping educators and parents become allies for girls in STEM

SheTech Explorer Day is a free hands-on, tech conference for Idaho’s ninth- to 12th-grade girls, wherein participants are exposed to STEM fields such as robotics, computer engineering, digital media, health, and microbiology.Women Innovators (W.IN) is the nonprofit advocacy and education organization behind SheTech. They’re hard at work helping businesses, nonprofits, and education entities to become allies in raising female students’ interest and achievements in STEM fields. Taking place at Boise State University, a dedicated group of TSheeters (both men and women) conducted workshops, staffed a booth to field questions from curious minds, and led the Tech Challenge. Read on as we share some of their experiences, and stay tuned for more stories throughout Women’s History Month in March. [caption id="attachment_29271" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Photo Credit: Katy Kahla, SheTech 2019[/caption]  

All it takes is a role model

A study by Microsoft and KRC Research found interest in STEM among female students decreases with age.
  • 31% of female students in middle school say jobs requiring coding and programming are “not for them.”
  • 40% of female students feel similarly in high school.
  • 58% of female students no longer consider a profession in technology or engineering by the time they’re in college.
One of the primary reasons given is the lack of female role models in these fields. Katy Kahla has been volunteering at SheTech for the last two years, and this year, she led the Tech Challenge, where teams of girls solve a real-world problem and pitch their ideas to win prizes. “Often I’d hear from female students at these events that they’re more interested in art, and they don’t like math or tech,” Katy recalls. “Then I show them how art can be applied to STEM or engineering, and I see a light bulb go off in their head. Suddenly, millions of possibilities are at their feet. I can’t tell you how much joy that brings me.” As one of W.IN’s board members and its Educate Lead, Eve Lacivita knows every win is important. “I learned about a student at the event who’s been having a tough time in school this year. In the middle of a workshop, she leaned over to her teacher and said, ‘I think I can do this. I think I can be a scientist.’ That, to me, is everything,” she summarizes. [caption id="attachment_29270" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Photo Credit: Katy Kahla, SheTech 2019[/caption]  

Empowerment: A gift that keeps on giving

W.IN designed the event for high school girls, but teachers, school counselors, and CTE directors can benefit just as much as students. Eve also tells of a teacher who was at the event with 10 students because a student who had attended the year before “hadn’t shut up about it since.” By the end of the day, the teacher had vowed to bring a bus of students with her next year. Similarly, one of Katy’s favorite aspects of the event is the Tech Challenge and how it’s applicable in everyday life. Teachers can replicate the activity in their classrooms to expose more female students to the world of STEM and technology. According to the Microsoft study, female students were three times more likely to say they’d study computer science in college than those who had no encouragement from either a parent or a teacher. In recognizing that it’s not enough to provide resources for attendees, SheTech conducted a two-hour grant-writing workshop with the help of Boise State University and the Idaho STEM Action Center, so teachers, counselors, and other educators can fund the resources they need. The SheTech committee also hopes to help parents access resources in the near future. [caption id="attachment_29268" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Photo Credit: Katy Kahla, SheTech 2019[/caption]  

Teaching girls to be brave, not perfect

Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford University, studies human motivation and introduced fixed versus growth mindsets in fostering success. When it comes to learning, students (or anyone) with a growth mindset continues to learn and improve through their willingness to try, fail, and inquire. The entire tech industry is built around the cycle of experimenting, failing, learning. By iterating failures, one often reaches the desired result faster than if they tried to find the perfect solution. “I want to tell girls and women not to let their fear of failure or the unknown hold them back. I feel like girls and women are often taught they need to be perfect and failure is not an option, but STEM and technology are far, far, far away from that,” says Katy. Eve echoes the sentiment heartily. She wants to debunk that STEM and technology are only for math or science geniuses. “There are so many ways to apply STEM and technology. Love solving puzzles? Consider coding. History excites you? Consider data analysis. You’re a people-person? Think about user research. An artist? Great! Technology depends on designers. Whatever your skill is, STEM is all about solving human problems, and there’s definitely a place for you.” [caption id="attachment_29269" align="alignnone" width="1024"] Photo Credit: Katy Kahla, SheTech 2019[/caption]  
Connect with Eve and Katy to learn more about their experiences at SheTech, what they do at TSheets, and how you can get involved with SheTech 2020. And as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. We want to thank all the TSheeters who made SheTech 2019 a success: Jen Benz, Lacey Darrow, Erin Hurley, Malcolm Jackson, Breanne Kunz, Loren Morris, David Murray, Josue Tello, Shree Yalamanchili, Haley Ward.
A little about Dorothy Chong

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