Written by TechGirlz Philadelphia Outreach Manager, Danica Pascavage
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I was able to present TechGirlz’s mission to the Network for Women with Careers in Technology (NWCT) at their evening event at Wax & Wine. The mission of the NWCT is to advance careers for professionals in all areas of technology through education, mentoring, and providing professional networking opportunities. While NWCT focuses on women in tech and TechGirlz focuses on providing opportunities for middle school girls in tech, I found an abundance of similarities that transcend age.
As we all had fun deciding which scent to make our candle (so many choices!), the women shared their own stories of being in tech. Some women spoke about being fresh out of college and how the NWCT provided mentorship and friendship. I watched as the experienced tech professionals welcomed the new college graduates into their conversations. Witnessing this gesture reinforced that being accepted in a community is a large component of what makes someone continue with a hobby, profession, or team. This is especially important to realize as women leave tech professions at a much higher rate than men.
As I watched the newcomers be warmly welcomed by the women at NWCT, I thought about how we strive for every girl to feel welcomed at TechGirlz workshops. The girls attending TechGirlz workshops regularly comment that they want to come back because the volunteer instructors were so patient, helpful and nice. They remark how fun it was to meet the other girls in the room and how important it was to finally connect with other girls who have the same interest as themselves. No matter if you are middle school age or middle age, creating a safe and warm environment is what keeps people coming back. I was able to experience that as NWCT embraced me into their community for the night, and it reminded me how important it is that TechGirlz does the same for middle school girls.
While sitting down to stir the wax to make our candle, I occasionally heard women downplaying their role in tech. “Oh, I don’t code, I just….” Notably, the other women around her would ask more questions and tell her that she was indeed part of the tech world. Again, this reminded me of our informal motto at TechGirlz: Tech is more than coding. Tech is part of almost all modern careers and we need to make sure that half of the population isn’t left out because they downplay or don’t believe their ability in technical is enough.
I also met women who didn’t major in Tech or Computer Science in college because they didn’t know they would enjoy it. They started working at a tech company in another capacity and as they learned what the company did, they wanted to join the technical side. Many either taught themselves or went back to school. When I spoke to the women at NWCT about how they could volunteer to help at the free workshops TechGirlz runs for middle school girls, they would wistfully respond, “I wish that was around when I was in middle school! I would have loved that!” I am so proud that TechGirlz makes the road to the various tech professions just a little smoother for the next generation.
The women at NWCT know how much it means to them to be supported along their path and are looking forward to paying it forward by running a TechGirlz workshop in 2019. Leading these workshops as a group will help strengthen their bond even more. Many of the women asked if they could assist at workshops in topics they want to learn more about like AI so they can expand their own tech knowledge (the answer is yes!). But mainly, they want to mentor the next generation and give to the girls what they wished they had had in middle school.
Thank you NWCT for inviting me to speak at your Wax & Wine night, and I hope to attend another one of your events in the future!