This past weekend, I had the opportunity to check out ChickTech’s High School Science Fair, held at PSU. ChickTech is a very cool organization whose mission “is dedicated to retaining women in the technology workforce and increasing the number of women and girls pursuing technology-based careers.” The high schoolers participated in a weekend-long set of presentations and workshops, ultimately culminating in a science fair open to the public, where they could show off a technical project they built after the weekend’s explorations. There were custom apps, websites, games, robots, light-up fashions, hardware assemblies—it was all very impressive. And the girls were really excited.
Learn more about the organization and the annual event at chicktech.org.
As someone who works in front of a screen on a daily basis, I maintain a depressing level of discomfort with certain technology specifics. I work in programs that offer the ability to write robust custom code and yet I stick to the safe “design mode” of the software. Code is tedious and overwhelming. I’ve long made the excuse that “my brain just doesn’t work that way.” But I wonder if my brain WOULD work that way, if I just had a little more tech practice, encouragement, and confidence.
Clearly I am not alone; the statistics show an incredible gender gap in STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). Take a look at this infographic for a quick breakdown. There are a bazillion facts and figures around it, and hundreds of articles questioning what’s behind this divide. (Interestingly however, according to a recent Smithsonian Magazine article, the pay gap in these fields is not as great a factor as is generally perceived. Read it here.)
Regardless of the reasons women are not well represented in STEM fields (YET), I love that organizations like ChickTech are helping girls build confidence and excitement around technology. By providing an opportunity to explore technological concepts in a no-pressure environment, perhaps more girls will be inspired by what’s possible, and will get the boost of confidence they need to pursue those ideas independently or in their studies. Organizations are springing up across the country and holding events like ChickTech’s High School Science Fair, and even smart toy makers (Goldie Blox is a great example) are emerging to help provide young girls with play opportunities that don’t involve princesses or ponies.
Are you a woman in a technology or other STEM field? What inspired you to pursue it?