No matter what some aureate rhetoricians would have us believe, advanced manufacturing and other high-tech occupations are much more likely to provide future employment opportunities than bringing back coal and big steel. They are already doing so, in fact, and the big question for the United States is, as in many other countries: where are we going to get all of the qualified workers that are needed to fill these positions?Part of preparing for the future of employment is a reconfiguring of education in grade schools so that students gain a higher level of mastery in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Another part of ensuring that there are enough qualified people to fill these high-tech positions is ensuring that girls also become comfortable with STEM, not only because it’s the right thing to do for equality, but also because of the simple numbers.
There have been, and continue to be, numerous efforts around the world designed to pique interest in STEM by girls and to support girls and women as they pursue those pathways. One such event, called SheTech Explorer Day, was just hosted in Utah by the Women Tech Council. The day-long event started in 2014 in recognition of the number of girls who needed support as they began to formalize or continued to engage with their interest in STEM.
There are currently more than 4,000 technology jobs open in the state of Utah, and with women making up only 23% of the technology workforce in the state, there is a lot of room for the creation of opportunities for girls to become a larger part of this sector. Since its inception, more than 12,000 girls have come through the SheTech event and participation in SheTech continues to grow with this year’s event drawing a record number of participants. Speaking to the impact that this event has, President of the Women Tech Council Cydni Tetro said:
“After five years, SheTech is shifting the career trajectories of thousands of girls at a critical point in their lives to keep them in STEM. Helping these girls enter the talent pipeline and stay engaged has a direct impact on the growth of Utah’s economy, and is an essential part of helping advance the entire technology sector by better leveraging talent to create high performance environments.”
In this vein, this year’s even linked the girls attending among 700 mentors from companies such as Adobe, Dell, Ivanti, and Vivint Smart Home along with other leading members of Utah’s leading technology sector. Hands-on activities gave the attendees an opportunity to interact with a variety of STEM-related careers from robotics to genetic testing to 3D printing. But it’s not enough just to host a one-day event. Part of SheTech’s success comes from its ongoing mentoring and the assistance it provides in helping girls find internships and make the connections necessary to advance their interest in tech industry employment.
Rather than being a gimmicky ‘pinking up’ of tech, this event provides girls with the understanding that their participation is not just a necessary effort by the tech industry to fill jobs, but actively encouraged because of the contributions that they can make both individually and collectively.
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