Local Non-Profits & Companies Bridge the Gender Gap in Technology
It’s no mystery that women are underrepresented in the fields of technology. Columbus Underground has reported on just that. But, companies are waking up to the issue of diversity, realizing that women and other minority groups offer perspectives that, until recently, have been largely missing from the corporate world.
Some are involved locally in initiatives on another front, looking to ensure that the next generation doesn’t have to play as much catchup. These programs, including Girls Who Code, CoolTechGirls and Techie Camp: Girl Power look a lot like Columbus’ tech community itself, bringing together businesses, non-profits, and neighborhood organizations to foster an appreciation and understanding of technology in girls at a young age.
“I think it puts me in a unique position where I’m able to talk about this with a lot of different companies and businesses and local organizations, who now have become very much aware of our program and have very big support for it,” said Purba Majumder, founder of CoolTechGirls and President of Cybervation, which streamlines companies’ operations and offers technical solutions and staffing.
Majumder started CoolTechGirls in 2013 with the help of the City of Dublin. Offering everything except direct monetary support, Dublin helped the program get off the ground, supplying interns, promotion for her events, and a space to host them at the Dublin Entrepreneurial Center (DEC).
These events happen monthly or bi-monthly, and they’re pulled off with the help of CoolTechGirls’ hosting partners, which vary event to event. These hosting partners, such as Cardinal Health, Girl Scouts, Otterbein, Women for Economic and Leadership Development (WELD) and others, offer what the City of Dublin provided at the program’s start: space, resources, and often snacks for the girls who participate.
Classes have a maximum capacity of 25 girls and are available to kids in fourth through eighth grade and in high school. They cover a range of topics in the tech realm. In February was their Concept of Algorithms event; and before that was an event urging girls to “think like a hacker.” They’ve covered cloud computing and data, techno fashion, electrical and computer engineering and more.
The goal, Majumder said, is to show girls the options they have in technology beyond coding and programming.
“There’s not enough that goes on inside the schools for them to know what is out there in the world of science and technology,” she said. “If they are afraid that they don’t want to do coding, they can still come and learn some of the topics and techniques, because you still have business analysts and project managers, and all these other types of jobs that are available that are still within the world of technology. We, I think, need to emphasize on that.”
CoolTechGirls is holding their weeklong summer camp again this year in July, when the Girl Scouts will host their “interspace exploration” event. The camp is the only event that has a cost ($260), but Majumder said they offer the program for free for students who apply for their scholarship.
It’s just one kind of program that girls can find to engage with technology. CoolTechGirls hosts regular day events, while Techie Camp: Girl Power, operated by Tech Corps and supported by the Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, hosts all-day weeklong dives into tech topics.
Techie Camp: Girl Power is an all-girl version of their co-ed program Techie Camp. The topics change with each weeklong camp, but they offer information on programming, robotics, web development, app development, engineering and more.
Each day of the camp goes deeper into the subject. For robotics, they start with smaller builds and work up. By the end of the week they complete a larger build and present their project to the volunteers and their parents. They explain why they created that robot, what the idea was behind it, and the challenges they faced in building it.
On top of technical skills, these programs allow them to learn teamwork, confidence and internal motivation, said Carla Easley. And, having female experts to help them along empowers them in itself.
“They get to see role models that look like them,” Easley said.
She added, “They get to know throughout the entire week, you know, ‘Girls can do this. This is not just for boys. I can excel here, I’m wanted here, I’m valued here, and I can do it.’”
TCETRA is a software development company based in Dublin, Ohio. Since 2007, the company has been focused on serving the prepaid wireless industry through the development of specific business tools, software, and applications. Our team is made up of talented technical and creative professionals dedicated to delivering innovative solutions to complex problems and helping grow the technology community in Columbus and the Midwest.