Five Years Later, Tech Girls Rock Keeps On Rocking
Since 2011, thousands of girls have been inspired by Tech Girls Rock to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields.
Picture a typical school gymnasium: fluorescent lighting, basketball hoops looming overhead, children’s voices echoing off the high ceiling. An everyday scene, but one December day in 2011, was anything but ordinary.That day,the gymnasium at the Children’s Aid Society East Harlem Boys & Girls Club was transformed.Tween and teenage girls, around 11 and 12 years old, unfamiliar with technology, imagined themselves as grown-up computer engineers.Encouraged by volunteers, the girls reassembled a desktop computer, spoke with women IT professionals and learned about possible educational and career paths. A movement was born.
From that first workshop in an East Harlem gymnasium, a national program was launched: Tech Girls Rock, an innovative cross-sector partnership between CA Technologies, a leading global software developer, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (BGCA), a national youth empowerment organization. Since 2011, thousands of girls have been inspired by Tech Girls Rock to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. At Tech Girls Rock workshops, girls build robots, learn to code and construct lightbulbs –with the guidance and support of local CA Technologies employees.
Tech Girls Rock was designed to help close the STEM achievement and access gap. The National Center for Women in Information Technology reports although women earn 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees, they attain only 17% of STEM diplomas. Additionally, women hold only 25% of professional computing occupations in the U.S. – even though women make up 57% of the workforce. These gaps have serious long-term economic consequences: Change the Equation reports that STEM jobs pay better and are growing at a faster rate compared to other job sectors.
There are many reasons why girls and women don’t pursue STEM opportunities, including a lack of women role models and gender stereotyping. Recognizing these reasons, CA Technologies and BGCA created Tech Girls Rock to connect young women with STEM leaders and introduce tech concepts in a hands-on, engaging way.
Five years later, Tech Girls Rock has become an established program at both CA Technologies and BGCA. Sponsored by CA, and brought to life in Clubs across the country, the program continues to inspire girls to discover technology and consider STEM studies and careers. The program is a Clinton Global Initiative Commitment to Action and has been recognized by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and at The White House Science Fair.
“Building excitement around STEM learning is a top priority for CA Technologies,” said Erica Christensen, VP, Corporate Social Responsibility, CA Technologies. “Through our partnership with Boys & Girls Clubs of America and our Tech Girls Rock initiative we hope to let these young women, who are part of a generation defined and enabled by technology, know there is a place for them in this field.”
At BGCA, Tech Girls Rock aligns with digital literacy initiatives, designed to ensure the four million youth served annually have the tools and resources needed to succeed in today’s tech-centered culture. Edwin Link, who heads academic innovation for BGCA nationally, shares that Tech Girls Rock is often the launching pad for girls who are curious about STEM, but afraid to raise their hand. “At our Clubs, we strive to provide educational programs which incorporate our after-school youth empowerment principles. Tech Girls Rock blends both, capturing girls’ imaginations while providing robust academic enrichment.”
To further expand learning, BGCA and CA Technologies have recently incorporated an add-on to Tech Girls Rock called DIY STEM. This mini-workshop-before-the-workshop provides further information on STEM fields and engages a smaller group of Tech Girls Rock alumnae to act as “tech ambassadors.” Through peer-to-peer connections, these alumnae generate excitement among Tech Girls Rock participants and lend a hand to younger girls. Ultimately,
DIY STEM allows BGCA members to get more out of Tech Girls Rock, empowers student STEM leaders to take charge and enriches the learning experience for all.
As the program celebrates its fifth anniversary, women and underserved populations are still underrepresented in STEM fields, despite growing economy and professional opportunities. CA Technologies and BGCA are committed to bringing workshops to Clubs that serve predominantly high-need youth.
Most of all, Tech Girls Rock inspires young girls to dream big and imagine being a scientist, a computer programmer or an engineer. Amy, a 12-year-old Club member from the Greater Washington Club, says STEM programs like Tech Girls Rock helped her become a better basketball player. “I can’t get a slam dunk if I don’t understand geometry and physics.” And 10-year-old Azari, from Las Vegas, who wants to grow up to “be a doctor, a chef, a lawyer, a judge, a police officer or a grocery store cashier,” says that studying STEM can help her achieve these goals.“Doctors have to learn about diseases, so that’s science. To work in a grocery store, I’d have to be pretty good at math.”
Until 50 percent of computer engineers, mathematicians and coders are women, programs like Tech Girls Rock will continue to be necessary. These workshops will continue their important work of inspiring girls to dream of building, leading and creating the future technology of tomorrow.