Working with Women in Industry to inspire girls into CS/IT/STEM Careers

tech logoIn December last year, I read a post on
Computing at School ‘Girls in Computing’ thread about a competition
called Technovation Challenge.

I researched the competition and
decided to enter a team of 5 girls from school. I have always been an advocate for  encouraging girls into male dominated industries and this seemed a great challenge for them to be involved in. We worked through the first few tasks without the required female mentor in industry, just because we could not find one. They liked the idea, but were struggling.

On the 11th February 2013, I had a follow request on Twitter from Silvia from Cisco California and I cheekily asked her what she did at Cisco. She replied that she was on the services team and linked me to her blog; I followed up with a request to be our mentor. She asked for further details and jumped at the chance of being our ‘virtual’ mentor. The very next morning I received an email from her stating that she had found us a London based mentor called Heidi who also worked from Cisco, and then the ball was rolling!

During our very first WebEx conference with both Heidi and Silvia, the girls were very reserved and I think stunned into silence. After the conference, I rang Heidi to discuss what we wanted from her and what she could offer them. With her boundless enthusiasm she offered to come to the school (we are based in the NW of England) for a day of business planning and for the girls to spend the day at Cisco HQ in London. Heidi arrived at school on the 5th of March to work with the girls and at 2.30pm we had a ‘breakfast meeting’ with Silvia (6.30am in the US) to share our ideas. It was great to see the girls become more confident and their explanations about the product and business model were exceptional. It was a great day and the girls were full of ideas for the challenge.

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We had arranged more WebEx conferences over the following 2 weeks and at 2pm on the following Monday I took a call from Heidi to say she was in the area and was it ok for her to pop in! What a great surprise – our virtual meeting had become an actual meeting! The difference in the girls was indescribable – what a great experience for them all.

Since then they have been working on designs, completing market research and pitching their ideas to local businesses. We have had some great feedback. We have since had more web conferences and booked our train tickets to London for the 25th and 26th March 2013. We have a packed day arranged by Heidi at Cisco – the girls are really looking forward to the events. Heidi and Silvia’s support of the girls have been outstanding and the impact on the girls is immeasurable. Heidi has arranged an amazing day for the girls and without her time and effort; this project would not have been possible. She has spent hours on resource collecting and idea generation. All this in less than 37 days! We have since been contacting businesses, big and small for feedback on our idea and potential sponsorship to take the girls to the US if we are fortunate enough to get through to the finals (we think our idea is great!)

If anybody would be interested in sponsoring the girls if they get through to the finals, however small a donation, please click on the link http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/technovation-challenge-final-in-usa/x/2953510?c=home

I will add more another post when we get back from London ………… Watch this space ………..

Feel free to comment!!

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10 responses to “Working with Women in Industry to inspire girls into CS/IT/STEM Careers

  1. Theresa, thank you for the invitation to mentor your Team. I’m glad you’re cheeky, it translates into fantastic opportunities for your students. More teachers should follow your example! You are always finding new ways to support and inspire your girls.

    • We should all try to reach out to somebody in industry to help our students – mentors make such a massive difference to student engagement and enjoyment – thanks to both you and Heidi

  2. Thanks for sharing your Technovation story. This is all new for us to. Like you I am an advocate of more girls (and boys) in IT – That is where the 21st Century jobs and money are ..one of my son earns 80% more than me only after 3 years as a software R &D engineer!

    • Thanks for your comment Sue, I am encouraging the boys too – they seem to have more confidence in their own ability and their own chances of getting jobs in IT. The girls need more of a nudge in the right direction. I really hope I can encourage all students into IT careers – it is the way forward!

  3. This is great! It’s exactly the sort of thing that inspires young people to get involved in the tech industry, no matter the field and shows that careers are open to all people. Will definitely be signing up for the next round and look to use this as an example for my GCSE Computer Science class that is 1/4 female. Like you said in your blog post, it’s largely down to confidence and if we can develop that, then we/they can compete for the top jobs.

    • Thanks Jonathan, it was an amazing experience of us all. There are so many careers avenues within companies like this and as we are now up from 3 girls in our GCSE Computing to 13 – we need to show real life examples of jobs available. Also to meet real members of staff both male and female was a real eye opener. Their confidence has been boosted and although they didn’t always love been centre of attention and filming the video pitch, they have done a great job – it will be added after submission. The chance to work with Cisco mentors Heidi and Silvia is beyond what we ever imagined it could be – doors have definitely been opened :) Get involved – it’s a great experience!

  4. Nice project! Good luck with the fundraising, hope you make it to the US! If you’re looking for mentors and people to come along and talk about jobs in computing, do you use the STEM Ambassadors scheme? (http://www.stemnet.org.uk/content/stem-ambassadors) For what it’s worth, I got my degree in computer science and now work in academic research in the field of Human Computer Interaction — and in this field it’s actually pretty evenly divided between men and women!

  5. Thanks for taking the time to leave feedback Lorna. This is the first year we have been involved in the project and I was lucky enough to find our mentors via Twitter. We are always looking for people to talk about Computing – so I will check out the STEM Ambassadors scheme – Thanks.

  6. Reblogged this on TechGirlsUK – Technovation Challenge and commented:

    There are times in your life when you meet somebody who changes your life.

    Silvia Spiva @silviakspiva who put me in touch with so many useful people!

    She found me additional female mentors in industry and connected us with amazing opportunities with Cisco. She showed me to power of Twitter and how I could use it to enhance my teaching and learning plus use it effectively to raise moment to help us take 5 students from the UK to Silicon Valley in May 2013.

    I am nominating her for Individual Tweeter category – we couldn’t have achieved any of this without our initial connection and continual support.

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