*Note: This post was also featured on the Women in Tech Blog.

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Christmas 2010 present from a friend. What does it say about me when I quickly noticed that her monitor says “Barbie” in binary-Ascii?

When I was in middle school, I remember being told by a boy that I couldn’t possibly be good enough at math to even place in the top 10 at a district competition, because he figured the winner would be male.  A month later I placed first against the top Calculus students in the state of Louisiana. 

The boy wasn’t the only one to suggest that perhaps men have an innate ability in math and science—an unfortunate statement, since I have seen proof of phenomenal, bright women in K-12 and collegiate education and in my professional career.  I’ve often sat in my engineering classes and noticed that I am only one of two females in a class of 50+, and I wonder why there are so few women in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.  I have spoken with women who point out that they were not exposed to the idea of pursuing a STEM career early on or found their passions in other disciplines; it is not by any means due to an innate difference in ability between men and women. Women who choose to study in a STEM field can make an impact on the community and achieve ambitious goals in technology. It is imperative to recognize that women could really use the support to be leaders in our chosen pursuits.

In order to take a step in the right direction, we should all be involved in promoting women in STEM fields on three career levels: K-12, college, and professional. Introducing math and science in a fun and interactive way to primary and secondary school students exposes them to the possibilities in technology. Supporting collegiate and professional women is important for fostering a positive environment for us to excel in male-dominated fields.  Mentoring relationships, public awareness events, and outreach opportunities are a few ways to encourage career growth for women in technology.

In the next few weeks, I’m excited to be speaking to hundreds of high school junior and senior girls at DeVry HerWorld events.  In addition to sharing my personal experience, I plan to convince them of how exciting technology can be and the variety of STEM roles.  Hopefully, they will be inspired by and understand the significance of Barbie’s transition from, “Math class is hard,” to Computer Engineer.

March 22: Las Vegas, NV
March 28: Los Angeles, CA
April 12: Colton, CA

From http://www.high-school.devry.edu/students/get-ready/her-world-workshop.jsp:

HerWorld is an interactive workshop given by DeVry University to high school juniors and seniors across the country each year during National HerWorld Month. It introduces these young women to career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. Through a series of games, hands-on projects and live discussions with successful women from top companies in the local community, HerWorld inspires young women to use their talents and interests to succeed, and how to best prepare for college in order to achieve their aspirations.