There once was a story of two technology competitions, one, a hackathon comprised of mostly professional male developers, and the second, a challenge for high school students to showcase their technical inventions. In each competition there was a winner, someone who wowed judges and stood out above the rest. As the story goes, both victors were female teens who made headlines for their brilliant innovations and for helping to blur gender lines in the world of IT. This is a true story.
As we’ve established, encouraging young people (yes, including girls!) to pursue careers in tech is crucial to solving the technology talent shortage. As a mother, I often struggle with the how; how can I encourage my own daughter to explore and maintain her interest in technology?
Sure, I’ve spent time explaining about how technologists create the games we play on our phones and I encourage her to believe she has what it takes to be the next Steve Jobs. But truthfully, I’m not sure that advice and encouragement really sinks in.
On the other hand, real world stories, about real kids and teens who have used technology to make a measurable difference seems to strike a chord. Recently she was riveted and inspired when I told her about teen Jennie Lemare, a 18 year old who beat out a room of men with her development of Twivo, a way to block twitter from spoiler alerts about a DVR-ed TV show you’ve yet to watch. And then there is 18 year old, Eesha Khare who invented a way to charge a cell phone in 20 seconds, winning Intel’s International Science and Engineering Fair’s, Young Scientist Award and $50,000.
As I told my daughter about Jennie and Eesha’s successes, she hung on my every word, asked questions, and starting thinking about the types of ‘problems’ she could solve using technology. For the moment, she is convinced that she too will be a successful technologist, and I’m grateful to these young women for their inspirational stories.
So, I encourage you to share these stories with the teens and tweens in your life. When thinking about ways to change the conversation and how to keep young people interested in tech, start by sharing stories about the star teen technologists you know or have heard about. These success stories, tech heroes, and role models will inspire our future generation of tech.
Interested in getting your girls involved in tech, check out these summer tech camps for girls!