Written by volunteer Alison Perch
Though TechGirlz was founded in Philadelphia, volunteers can share our curriculum and spread our mission from anywhere in the world. One example is a dedicated community of TechGirlz volunteers in the Triangle region of North Carolina (Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill).
Deirdre Clarke, who has worked in the software industry for many years, brought TechGirlz curriculum to the Triangle. When Deirdre’s daughter enrolled in North Carolina State University as an engineering major, Deirdre learned a troubling statistic. During orientation, the university announced that only 12% of the graduating computer science class was female.
“It bugged me,” Deirdre says. “Software was a field that I spent my entire life in, as I also majored in computer science, and I couldn’t believe the percent of females had declined over the years. I was determined to start helping to make young girls more aware of the possibilities in the field and change that number.”
At the time, Deirdre was living in Philadelphia, though she moved to North Carolina shortly thereafter. She was determined to volunteer for an organization that promoted girls in tech, though there wasn’t a good fit for her in the area. Deirdre was familiar with TechGirlz from her time in Philadelphia, so she decided to start organizing TechGirlz TechShops in North Carolina.
The TechGirlz community in the Triangle region has reached hundreds of girls over the past five years. “It truly fuels my soul every time I participate in a session with the girls. I walk away so energized seeing the girls so excited about tech,” Deirdre says.
As a woman in tech, Deirdre recognizes the importance of diversity in STEM fields. Deirdre got her start as a software developer, then moved into product management. Today, she leads a team of Customer Success managers for Aha! product management software.
Despite her long history in the tech industry, Deirdre still faces some doubters and skeptics.
“Someday I hope that the stereotype of what a person in tech looks like changes. I cannot even [tell] you the amount of times people have said to me, after I tell them what I do for a living, ‘Wow, I never would have guessed you work in software.’ Diverse teams are the most successful,” Deirdre explains.
Deirdre is working to change these perceptions through her work with TechGirlz. Along the way, Deirdre says she’s met “amazing and appreciative parents, awesome volunteers who I couldn’t do what we do here in the Triangle without, [and] awe inspiring girls who will change the next generation.”
Deirdre loves to stay active, both at work and in her personal life. In her spare time, Deirdre loves spending time outdoors, especially walking her dog around the greenways in her area, hiking through parks, and playing tennis and golf.
Despite her busy schedule, Deirdre still finds time to volunteer for TechGirlz. For anyone on the fence about TechGirlz, Deirdre offers these words of encouragement: “For those looking to give back and some pretty darn cool volunteer opportunities — come check us out and see for yourself how much it fuels your soul as well.”