It’s hard to recap all the incredible projects ‘Softies dedicate their time to over a year in addition to their work commitments (though we do try!), but I wanted to take a moment to give a shout out to all the folks that spend time mentoring young women through our DigiGirlz program.
2011 was an remarkable year for this program with over 5,100 participating students in locations around the US and the world – Spain, Ecuador, Singapore, Denmark and Jamaica – to name just a few.
DigiGirlz, if you aren’t familiar, is a program run by Microsoft that gives high school girls the chance to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and get hands on with computers and technology through one day workshops and High Tech Camps.
It may come as no surprise, but women are still extremely underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). An August 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce indicates that although women fill close to half of all jobs, they hold less than 25% of STEM jobs.
As Catherine Ashcraft, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Women & IT, said in an article about the Charlotte, N.C. DigiGirlz camp written for Diverse Magazine, “There are messages that girls get either subtly or not so subtly about who are the kinds of people who do technology. In popular culture it’s often not girls who do the inventing.” And, when they do develop an interest in technology, Ashcraft also talked about the lack of role models. “They find they are often the only girl in the class. It’s intimidating and difficult for them.”
That is where Microsoft’s commitment to DigiGirlz comes in as an early effort to change perceptions of women in STEM related careers.
This amazing lineup of guest speakers and dedicated Microsoft volunteers – all serving as role models, all making valuable contributions in the world through technology – are opening young women’s eyes to the variety of opportunities available in the high-tech industry and to all the things they can accomplish.
As one girl commented on her evaluation form after listening to a workshop session, “It really inspired me to do something extraordinary with my life.”