More than 470 female high school students and 60 educators from 31 Rhode Island area high schools and career and tech centers were welcomed to the University of Rhode Island recently to attend Tech Collective’s 12th annual GRRL Tech Interactive Technology Expo, including students from Johnston High School.
Presented by Tech Collective, Rhode Island’s industry association for Information Technology and Bioscience, and hosted by the University of Rhode Island, GRRL Tech (Girls Reaching Remarkable Levels) is an interactive technology expo offering female high school students a look into dynamic and rewarding STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) opportunities. Through industry mentoring and hands-on workshops, GRRL Tech aims to raise awareness of the STEM industries and career pathways.
Students attended their choice of two out of 24 workshop offerings designed and conducted by female industry professionals and URI faculty. Workshops explored a variety of STEM fields, ranging from bioscience, animal science and oceanography to engineering, physics and computer science.
The morning’s keynote speaker was Ruthe Farmer, director of strategic initiatives for the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT).
“We need the contribution of girls’ technical minds in order to build the most innovative solutions to solve the global challenges we face as a society,” Farmer said. “Currently, the contributions of women are largely missing from technology and innovation, yet women make up more than half of the populations and workforce, make the bulk of consumer decisions and are the primary educators of our children. It makes no sense to continue building a technical world with a team that isn’t reflective of the people it serves. We can only dream of the innovative solutions we’ll see when women are equally represented as designers and creators of technology.”
A recent NCWIT report, “Girls in IT: The Facts” (Nov. 2012), underscores that while women earn 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees, only 18 percent of computer and information science degrees are earned by women. The shortage of women in the workforce is felt across many of the STEM fields. Women fill almost half of all jobs in the United States, yet they fill less than 25 percent of the STEM jobs.
“The technology industry needs the impact and innovation these young ladies can bring to the table,” said JoAnn Johnson, manager of youth and education programs for Tech Collective. “GRRL Tech aims to inspire that. Of course, not all of the students attending today will pursue STEM careers, but many will walk away with knowledge and maybe even a confidence they may not have had before. That is a success we are proud of as GRRL Tech has become an exciting tradition, not only for the Tech Collective staff, but also for our industry community and local high schools and career and tech centers.”
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