This past Saturday, March 1st, we were honored to host the Dare 2B Digital Conference at Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley. The conference, which aims to open young girls eyes to the wide variety of opportunities and careers in computing science, is in it’s 5th year.
The conference this year presented keynote speakers Julia Landauer, who races in NASCAR when she’s not attending Stanford, and Corinne Chan, the COO of Chictopia.com. Putting good female role models in the spotlight is one of the main goals of Dare 2B Digital, and this year a fantastic group of successful women from the tech industry participated, which also included Saguna Goel and Rachel Mellon, the Co-directors of She++. In between the inspirational talks of the aforementioned women, the girls attended a series of workshops on everything from Animation, Robotics, to designing an app.
The conference also offered a program for the parents of young women who participated. One of the events the parents attended was a panel discussion, hosted by San Jose Mercury News Business Columnist Mike Cassidy, which discussed new ways to get more women and girls in tech. The panel was comprised of knowledgeable women who have devoted a lot time and energy to tackling the major obstacles barring women from pursuing tech. On the panel was Jill Denner, Ph.D. and senior research scientist at ETR Associates, Linda Kekelis, Ph. D., executive director at Techbridge, Lorilyn Owens the Director of Oracle Academny, Lupita Cortez Alcalá the Deupty Superintendent of Instruction and Learning Support in California, and two Techbridge students, Kara Newman and Nadia Wohlfarth.
The panel discussed the major issues keeping women on the periphery of the tech world and how their parents can help. Jill Denner, Ph. D. noted that one of the biggest obstacles is low confidence.
“We find that why girl don’t take computing classes or why they drop out has a lot to do with the fact that they don’ think they’re good at it” Jill noted.
One of the reasons for this, at least in the tech world, is the staggeringly disproportionate amount of boys populating the tech ecosystem, giving the false impression that women don’t belong. Another reason for this lack of confidence is the language that teachers use in math related subjects; a vernacular that often confuses competition for competency.
Jill Denner, Ph. D. noted that we should focus on the process of problem solving more, “instead of saying ‘did you win’ or ‘did you figure it out’, we should be asking how did you try to solve this?”
With encouragement and inspiration, young girls can find success in computing. According to Lorilyn Owens, that kind of knowledge will be universally helpful:
“No matter what field you end up entering, just having a background in computing will open you up to tremendous opportunities,” said Lorilyn.
Linda Kekelis suggested that girls band together and wade into the tech world as a group, in order to be emboldened by the support of their peers. Walking into a room full of boys might be intimidated, but less so if you have your friends by your side. Linda also noted that it’s important for young girls to understand the real world opportunities that exist when you pursue computer science.
Linda advised parents to “Make technology mean something,” for their daughters.
The parents in the audience also heard from the two Techbridge students, Kara Newman and Nadia Wohlfarth, on how learning about opportunities in the tech world has changed their perceptions.
““I never thought it would be applicable to my life, or that I could do something with it,” said Nadia. “Now that I know in this digital age it’s really important to have a technological background, which leads to so many opportunities. You can really make it your own and do what you want with it.”
Kara stated of Techbridge that “these programs have really helped get a better sense of how technology can really influence my life and lead to these careers.”
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