Busting Stereotypes and Bridging the STEM Gap
The “STEM gap” has received a lot of media attention, the need to increase representation of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (#STEM) fields. There are several theories about why this gap exists, but one fact is that the pipeline of girls going into STEM careers needs to be increased. The key is expanding girls' access to and interest in the fields of science, technology, and math.
Stereotypes get formed in from many different sources but consider if we give young women more exposure to technical experiences and resources, which will give them momentum to resist those stereotypes and in turn be engaged and invested in STEM careers.
Another key stimulus in boosting girls’ confidence in STEM is by exposing them to confident, successful women engaged in the technology industry in many different roles. Innovation leaders Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and HP Inc (HP) recently co-sponsored a Girl’s Technology Camp event that did exactly that.
High Tech Campers and Coders
Building on HPE’s and HP’s long-term success with HPE Code Wars, a first-class programming competition for high school students, the camp was hosted at the HPE and HP campus in Houston by founders Scott Harsany and Sylvia Quillen and HP co-sponsor Claretta Strickland. The event was envisioned to give girls an intense, hands-on experience to share technology innovation, spark interest in tech careers and showcase talented female innovators and engineers. Over a two day period, thirty girls nominated to attend from area high schools toured leading-edge HPE and HP innovation labs including 3D Printing, Thermal and Mechanical, and the Digital Tech Oasis. Through these experiences, they had the opportunity to gain an appreciation for some of the challenges involved in the product and solutions development process and a bird’s eye view into innovation.
They also participated in hands-on programming exercises: one highlight was building an Internet of Things (IoT) device using an Arduino board, and another favorite activity was coding a Jumpy Bird game. Relay teams built and tore down a server to demonstrate how the technology they observed in the labs translated into a product. The girls also learned about some of the tech behind a favorite teenage pastime, social media. The girls chronicled the entire event through Snapchat stories and several prizes were awarded for innovation in posting “snaps.” The event highlighted that the sponsoring companies are capturing and drawing from diverse points of view that in turn improves our products and services, and our companies as a whole.
Engineers to Quality Leaders: The Tech Career Spectrum
Meeting women in technology careers is very important to help the young women envision themselves in tech roles. To learn about the different paths that can lead to tech, the young women heard from female leaders from HPE and HP including Susan Blocker, Marie Myers, Monique Nolk, Rhonda Rubinstein and Krista Satterthwaite who shared their career journeys and highlights. Each leader shared a personal message that uncovered their motivation for pursuing a tech career. The girls also learned about the wide variety of careers in technology from technical roles from trailblazing women engineers and innovators and functional leaders in finance, human resources, procurement, and supply chain. The event demonstrated that we bring together the brightest minds to create breakthrough technology solutions that advance the way people work and live.
A highlight on the second day was a lively panel discussion where the participants could hear from a diverse set of HPE diversity champions. The girls also had the opportunity to meet Chief Diversity Officer Brian Tippens who shared HPE’s vision for an inclusive and diverse workforce, where our inclusive culture allows our global workforce to thrive by celebrating our differences, promoting collaboration and inspiring innovation. The girls also had time set aside to have lunch in small groups, allowing for more personal conversations with female employees seeking to encourage connections and support for any questions or concerns they raised.
Since no tech event is complete without some swag and giveaways, the girls received backpacks with technology treats and HPE and HP themed gear. They left the event inspired and encouraged to seek out their high school coding teams and to come back and participate in CodeWars or check out our internships with HP and HPE Careers. If you’d like to learn more about HPE female innovators, check out this HPE Careers blog posting “In Celebration of Female Engineers and Innovators”.
About the Author
Jill Sweeney leads technical Knowledge Management for volume servers, high performance computing and Artificial Intelligence (AI), and composable systems at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. Jill and her team are transforming the technical experiences customers and partners have with HPE's products, solutions and support information to foster positive customer business outcomes. No stranger to change management and transformation, Jill has held technology focused and marketing roles at HPE including launching both the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobility go-to-market programs as well as managing global brand programs for Hewlett Packard's Starbucks Alliance and employee communication engagement.
Prior to the HP/Compaq merger, Jill drove alliances for a Compaq owned start-up, B2E Solutions. Jill is a champion for Inclusion and Diversity as well as STEM Careers. She actively supports CodeWars programming competition, HPE university recruiting and serves as a mentor to early and mid-career employees seeking to move outside their comfort zone.
This year, Jill has taken on a new challenge, addressing a societal problem of human trafficking. She is working with a local organization to give female victims of human trafficking career coaching and referrals to coding camps to break the economic cycle, supporting dignity and sharing hope.
An inspirational and motivational speaker, Jill has recently given industry keynotes on topics including IoT trends, diversity, employee engagement and work-life transformation. Jill served on the Anita.Borg Partner Forum to select technical topics and source industry leading speakers for the Grace Hopper Celebration panel submissions. A frequent social media contributor on technology and STEM topics, you can follow Jill on Twitter @JillW_Sweeney and on LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/jillsweeney to learn more about her passion for increasing #STEM engagement and technology interests.