If you have been following our blog for any time, you know that CQL is entwined in the promotion of women in technology. This is because we love big ideas, diverse thinking, solving problems, using data to bridge gaps and… (wait for it) …we think sitting around hoping something will change is not a strategy – getting involved and creating change is the right thing to do.
To that end, last week we partnered with Junior Achievement (JA) and area women leaders to bring the JA Girls Dream Fair to Holland, MI. Three hundred 7th and 8th grade girls listened to stories about overcoming adversities, thinking about life’s possibilities and what it means to lead. (While it is not always easy to infuse new ideas into a teen’s life, we aren’t willing to say ‘uncle’ yet.)
The statistics tell us that women make up approximately 52% of the U.S. population, yet for computer programming jobs (just one area of STEM) less than 30% pursue this as a major and an even smaller fraction stick with it as a career. Our goal is to move the needle and actively make a difference.
Mark Lardieri, President of CQL and JA Board Chair for the Girls Dream Fair event stated, ‘…the data suggests that many girls at this age eliminate STEM careers for a variety of reasons, many of which are the result of a lack of knowledge. By matching girls with successful women, it is our hope to inspire the girls to investigate more.’
The event showcased three speakers who gave inspiring stories of their path from 8th grade to where they are now – Nicki Bonczyk (JR Automation), Jennifer Jurgens (Susan G. Komen – Michigan) and Sheila Sarver (Yanfeng) kicked off the day. Maranda from WoodTV8 acted as the emcee and had the girls fired up to have some fun.
Break-out sessions focused on topics such as ‘Individual Brand Development’ and ‘Identifying Career Paths.’ During lunch, fifty women from STEM careers joined the girls and provided additional opportunities for mentorship as one mentor was matched for lunch with six girls.
Current statistics tell us that there are three jobs for every available programmer yet colleges and universities continue to struggle to attract females into computer science paths.
Can an event like the JA Girls Dream Fair have a positive impact on girls?
That is our hope and we will continue to push for equity and opportunity.
Lardieri stated, ‘Our goal at CQL and JA is to inspire the girls to know that they can do anything they set out to accomplish and to put an emphasis on STEM careers. Personally, I hope their self-esteem was elevated to help them be successful in life.’ (Well said sir.)