How Girls in Tech helps women prepare for careers in STEM

Leanne Russell,

Founded in 2007, Girls in Tech is an independent, global non-profit that works to put an end to gender inequality in high-tech industries and startups. They do that by educating and empowering women who are passionate about technology, offering everything from coding courses to bootcamps to hackathons and startup competitions. With 60 chapters and more than 100,000 members in 36 countries, they’re on a mission to support women with the access and community they need to succeed.

Pega recently partnered with Girls in Tech, donating a portion of PegaWorld registration fees to support their educational, empowerment, and community building programs. We spoke with founder and CEO, Adriana Gascoigne, about how the idea for the organization came about, their successes, and how Girls in Tech helps prepare women for a career in rapidly changing, tech-based industries.

Can you tell us more about what motivated you to start a non-profit educational organization?

I worked at a startup and was the only woman employed at the time; there was (and, unfortunately, still is) a huge disparity of women and minority groups represented in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Afterward, I experienced sexual harassment at my second job out of university. When that happened, I was confused, afraid, and not sure what to do next.

My academic background is in sociology. I’m genuinely curious about people and what drives them. Building on that, I’m intrigued by what makes communities function (or not function); this means things like cultural awareness, languages, socioeconomic status, social injustice, social mobility, education, and equality. 

Where are you seeing the greatest impact?

We’re seeing the greatest impact in numbers for bringing women into the STEM world and teaching new skills. For instance, to date, we’ve impacted over 10,000 female founders and startup entrepreneurs through our AMPLIFY startup competition, 175,000 participants in our hackathons, and 125,000 participants in our bootcamps on coding and leadership.

Girls in Tech works with members around the world, and we’re focusing on expanding access to our programs and services. This year, we’re doing everything from teaching Python to expanding into even more countries.

What has Girls in Tech’s greatest challenge been so far?

Our greatest challenge so far has been raising funds for chapters in developing countries. 

Girls in Tech chapters are located everywhere from the United States to Nigeria, Indonesia, and Bolivia. Some of our chapters don’t enjoy the financial support that chapters in richer nations have; we want to make sure that everyone – no matter where they’re located – has access to the same training and community-building opportunities.

What are Girls in Tech’s plans for the future?

Girls in Tech’s primary focus at this time is opening new chapters and expanding our international footprint. This past year, we opened new chapters in Washington, D.C., Seattle, New York, and Palestine, and tripled the size of our flagship women-in-technology conference Catalyst through expansions into Britain and Australia. 

We’re also focusing on expanding our recruitment opportunities and mentorship program with our partners; our newly expanded CODE G Level II bootcamp offers qualified intermediate-level participants a five-day Python workshop for web development and data science designed to prepare women to obtain new career opportunities.

What changes do you see on the horizon for women with tech-based skills?

We see increasing participation by women in the tech world and a growing pipeline of women entering the entire spectrum of STEM careers. This change won’t just take place in the United States; it will be a worldwide phenomenon.

According to the National Science Foundation’s science and engineering indicators, in the United States, female students’ achievement in mathematics and the sciences is on par with their male peers; achievement gaps don’t show up until higher education. We see those achievement gaps, which we believe are caused by external factors, will shrink and eventually disappear.

At this year’s PegaWorld we are focusing on customer engagement and intelligent automation, two concepts that are heavily trending in the enterprise space. What trends are you seeing and how are you preparing today’s youth to adapt?

We’re especially excited about our CODE G program, which I mentioned earlier.

CODE G is a series of free multi-day bootcamps which teach participants career-enhancing skills. These workshops cover web development, data science, Python, machine learning and more.

We want to teach tomorrow’s STEM professionals to work in a world where new innovations are commonplace and to be comfortable working on tomorrow’s biggest challenges – from customer engagement and intelligent automation and beyond.

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, what is your best advice for women on how to #BalanceforBetter and #LeaveYourMark?

I think the most important thing for women searching to achieve gender parity in the workplace to #LeaveYourMark is to pay it forward.

One of the best ways to do this is to serve as a mentor or a sponsor helping marginalized individuals in STEM fields achieve their dreams. This can be done on your own or through organizations like Girls in Tech; the important thing is sharing your success with others and helping new talent become established in the industry.

Learn More:

  • To learn more about the mission of Girls in Tech and the programs they sponsor, or to make a donation, visit their website: girlsintech.org

Tags

  • Industry: All Industries
  • Topic: PegaWorld

About the Author

Leanne Russell, managing editor of Pega’s blog, helps high-tech leaders share their knowledge, experience, and success stories.