Wanted: More girls in STEM careers

John Fry, president of Drexel University and Tracey Welson-Rossman, founder of TechGirlz collaborated on an article for The Inquirer. They shared their thoughts on how Philadelphia is “quietly leading the way on advancements in technology, education, and female empowerment” and the importance of these three areas for the continued growth in tech careers. The full article was originally published May 30, 2018 in the Opinion/Viewpoints section of The Inquirer online.

Girls at a TechShop

It will be up to the next generation of workers to fill the [shortage of tech workers] void. That is where education and female empowerment come in. Women are notoriously underrepresented in traditional technology fields. At a time when we must reevaluate our education system in terms of STEM fields and success measurement, it affords us the opportunity to redesign how we engage with girls from as early as middle school through to college and into their careers.

To help advance this goal, Drexel University and TechGirlz – a national nonprofit bringing technology training to middle-school girls launched and run here in Philadelphia – recently announced plans to partner on a wide range of initiatives designed to advance girls’ interest in technology, including workshops and summer camps. Together, TechGirlz and Drexel are committing to delivering more citywide resources and opportunities for girls to receive technology instruction and experience a college environment from a young age. We believe this signals a shift in higher education to identify, nurture, and recruit next-generation technology talent much the way some schools pursue athletes.

But there is more that everyone can do. Sign up to be a volunteer instructor at a TechGirlz camp, or encourage your children to experiment with online coding courses or deconstruct an old computer.

The only way we create meaningful and lasting change is to create a rich fabric of technology engagement interwoven through the home, our schools, and available after-school options. By providing these options for children, we can show them that technology is a core part of their life and build the foundation for a career-long — even lifelong — embrace of it.

And by bringing more girls into the fold of tech-enabled workforce training, we can propel Philadelphia forward as an attractive destination for both companies and families. Philadelphia has an opportunity to be a pioneer in the ways in which it prepares its young people for tech careers and ensures that girls remain at the center of that discussion.

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