Girls relate to technology in a different way than boys, so it takes a smart approach to get them excited about technology and how it could relate to them.
“You have to give them tools that they can relate to, and show them other girls and women having fun in technology,” said Tracey Welson-Rossman, founder of TechGirlz. “Making technology part of their social lives is a powerful way to get girls excited about technology.”
Welson-Rossman is an expert in the matter, founding a nonprofit, TechGirlz, to reduce the gender gap in technology occupations. Through fun and educational hands-on workshops and an annual entrepreneur summer camp, TechGirlz gets middle-school-aged girls interested in different kinds of technology and shows them the variety of career possibilities.
“During our Tech Entrepreneur Camp, the girls pitch ideas that are grounded in reality, and technology helps them figure out how to make those ideas come to life,” she said.
She echoed research found in new Make Tech Her Story study from CompTIA: Girls become highly engaged with technology when it’s used to solve problems, communicate and do things for social good.
In that spirit, the Dream IT Career Resource Center, developed by CompTIA’s Advancing Women in Technology (AWIT) Community, features real stories about women working in IT, connections to groups like TechGirlz, plus videos and career information to help mentors introduce the idea of technology as a career option.
“It’s really plug and play,” said Michelle Ragusa McBain, chair of AWIT. “The Dream IT Career Resource Center has all the content and data, and you can take the PowerPoint and add videos and personal stories to fit your presentation style and needs as you see fit.”
“Not everyone is comfortable with designing their own presentation, but through leveraging our materials and telling their own stories, we can reach all women and share a story to inspire them and introduce them to a variety of amazing opportunities in technology,” Ragusa McBain said. “By working together, and providing this invaluable mentorship, we can extend an olive branch to girls and women of all ages and say, ‘There is a place for you.’”
The Dream IT Career Resource Center, built by AWIT, features fresh content, a compelling design and easy navigation to help women working in IT share the message that technology is a great place to work.
“I’ve spent a lot of time introducing girls to technology and tools like this help a lot,” said AWIT’s vice chair Cristina Greysman. “Use the site to draw girls and women into technology. Show them people they can look up to and get them excited about the jobs they could get.”
The Career Resource Center is the central hub of information for Dream IT, which reached its goal of telling 10,000 people that IT is a great career choice for women. Dream IT started in the U.S. and Canada and recently expanded to the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Use this step-by-step guide through Dream IT’s Career Resource Center to make technology approachable and exciting to girls and women.
“This can be a very dynamic tool,” Ragusa McBain said. “You never really realize the impact or the breadth and scope of who you might reach during these presentations.”
How to Mentor Using Dream IT’s Career Resource Center
The Dream IT site features a quick and direct route to information for the people you’re mentoring. Everything below can be found in the Career Resource Center and each section has a direct link.
Intro to Tech: This collection of resources can jumpstart the conversation and gives an overall picture of a career in technology.
Start by showing videos of girls and women who love computer science. Choose from students attending Chicago’s ChiTech STEM school or hear personal stories from young women in the UK. For those totally new to technology, share There’s a Place for You in IT. Once you’ve got their attention, start talking about what kind of activities they like to do and start poking around the links under Path To A Career. The You Can Do IT graphic is a colorful motion experience that walks girls through all the areas they can work in technology, like finance, entertainment, fashion, education, healthcare and travel. It’s a quick and all-encompassing introduction to technology opportunities.
For women about to start their career or those who are already in the workforce looking for a change, jump into the advanced career material, like Test Drive an IT Career videos, and the webinars for women in technology, all produced by AWIT.
Real IT Stories: You and your colleagues provide the natural face of the industry, and this page of testimonials introduces women to identifiable people working in technology. Start with Halima Olapade, a software engineer at Google, who says the best part of her job is that she can “totally and completely be myself,” or Rebecca Rosen who started her career at a boutique IT consultancy. These stories include moments that give women pride in their work and detail what they love about their jobs. The collection features stories from women working in the U.S., UK, Australia and New Zealand.
Tech Groups: Get social! There are dozens of groups focused on proving tech is chic and not just for geeks. Find a robotics group in your area or a meet-and-greet of women interested in STEM. The protracted list by Dream IT breaks these groups down by age and geography, so find career women or girl-based organizations that suit your needs and find out when they meet.
Career Areas: Once you’ve talked about some real women working in technology, help girls and women see where they might fit into the technology ecosystem. Browse this detailed list for areas of interest, and then dig into the related IT jobs, hiring statistics and salary averages.
“There are so many different roles you can play in technology, and the Dream IT site showcases all the different opportunities and shows you don’t have to be too techy or traditionally nerdy to be really good at a career in technology. You can find a role perfect for you,” Ragusa McBain said.
Speaker Resources: The proceeding pages work best when you’re working in small groups or one-on-one. If you’d rather give a presentation to a group of students, use these resources to build your talk. Start with a video or use the slideshow package to outline the talk and then add extra videos or handouts to personalize the talk. If you want to keep it really simple, use the video presentation to introduce girls to IT by setting up a screen and just pushing play.
“Giving a talk can get big groups interested in technology and help them help each other keep it going in the future,” said Greysman. “Whenever I do a talk, there are always girls at the end who are very excited about technology. Commit a few hours of time to prepare and you’ll find they work every time.”
Michelle Lange is a writer and designer living in Chicago.