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Girls encouraged to enter technology field
Question of the Day
Michelle Means, who teaches a filmmaking course for the Fairfax Collegiate Summer camp program, has seen this gender divide both as a film student at American University and as an instructor. She finds herself encouraging the girls in her class to participate more in both discussion and production.
“I want to help give females the opportunity to become familiar with this early on because later in life they may not have the same resources. When there’s participation and a student holds a camera for the first time, or edits for the first time, I can see them glow, and that’s a feeling that can stick with them.
“If they get interested early, and there are resources out there for them to encourage them as they get older, there are just so many things they can accomplish,” Ms. Means said.
Shireen Mitchell, founder of Washington nonprofit Digital Sisters, is working to provide a supportive network of women to encourage today’s younger generation to pursue their interests in the technology field.
“There just aren’t enough role models in schools or tech speakers who are women, and not enough girls are being encouraged by other girls in their [tech] courses,” Ms. Mitchell said. She hopes her organization’s advocacy and outreach efforts will help to reverse that trend.
Girls going digital
Microsoft’s new office location on Wisconsin Avenue Northwest recently opened its doors to high school girls for a three-day DigiGirlz High Tech Camp. One aim of the camp was to encourage young women to pursue college degrees and careers in the male-dominated world of computer science.
“This is our third year doing the DigiGirlz technology camp, and the objective for Microsoft doing these camps is to address the growing need of young women to participate in science, technology, engineering and math,” said Donna Woodall, community outreach director for Microsoft’s Washington office.
“We do these technology camps to introduce girls to technology in a very fun way, it’s like a summertime-fun way of seeing technology, and with the goal to inspire them to continue that,” Ms. Woodall said.
Andrea Sheard, a 16-year-old senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Northwest Washington, attended the DigiGirlz camp after taking a computer class.
“I took the class, and it was completely filled with guys, and there aren’t that many guys at my school. So a lot of them knew what they were talking about, how to take a computer apart, how to put it back together, how to program this, how to program that. … And I kind of felt out of place, and at times it felt like ‘Maybe this isn’t for you,’” Angela said.
When campers arrived at the DigiGirlz camp last month, instructors hoped to establish a lasting attraction to technology through a hands-on experience that allowed them to design their own video games.
“I didn’t know I was going to be designing a game,” said Jewel Jordan, a 15-year-old student at Charles Herbert Flowers High School in Springdale, Md. “I actually thought it was going to be observation of how people at Microsoft actually did their work, like how they went through and made the codes for the programs, how they made the games, and stuff like that. … But I like video games, so it was really cool actually learning how to program one.”
Donna Woodall said that is the reason why Microsoft decided to sponsor the camps, covering daily costs for attendees, including meals, gift bags and T-shirts.
Microsoft reached out to local technology organizations and local high schools through fliers and e-mails to promote the camp. Of the more than 300 girls who applied, 40 girls were selected to attend; a final 36 enrolled.
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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