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GirlCon: A Conference on STEM and the Empowerment of Girls in Tech

In this day and age, the STEM field is growing rapidly to further develop how we function as a society and has skyrocketed in relevancy. But even through its development and expansion throughout the world, the field is dominated by men. In fact, women make up a meager 24% of the STEM workforce in the United States. Along with the small population of female STEM workers, they are 45% more likely to leave the field compared with male workers. With such a gender disparity within the employees, it’s no surprise that working and staying in the field is difficult for women. This exclusive environment plays into discouraging young girls, making it especially hard for them to enter this field of work.

The purpose of feminism is to achieve equality between men and women — which is what Kyla Guru and Molly Graton, the founders of GirlCon, a conference aimed at girls who are interested in technology, are determined to bring to the STEM field. This day-long conference held on June 15 at Google’s Chicago office empowered girls through lectures, panels led by prominent women in the field, and hands-on activities. A variety of sessions led by professionals were offered for attendees to choose from, including areas that you would be surprised that it connected to tech- such as art and law. This particular lesson was present through the conference- the idea that tech could be applied to many different occupational fields that don’t necessarily have to part of STEM. I attended this conference without much previous experience in tech, however I believe that technology will be an important significant part of my life and play into my career as a journalist.

“Women make up 50% of the world’s population, so if our future is moving towards technology and we are not including half of our world it would be extremely detrimental to our society. Just the perspective of valuing a woman’s opinion and including her in a conversation is necessary in the workplace, and it needs to be brought to the STEM field.” – Kyla Guru, co-founder of GirlCon

The panels and sessions shone light on sectors of the field we usually don’t think about, and expanded the audience’s view on the STEM field. Attendees learned that the field isn’t just full of careers where you need to be constantly surrounded by computers and tech start-ups, but one-of-a-kind occupations where you apply lines of code that are not necessarily hard to achieve simple tasks, such as gathering public voting data for political campaigns. This particular panel went in-depth about specifically the Democratic National Committee’s database and how tech is applied- which is something unfamiliar to the general population, and as a result every single person in the room learned something completely foreign to themselves. These lectures not only talked about the different aspects of the field, but also why it’s so important to include girls who are yet to even decide what job they hope to have when they are older.

Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code, offered an anecdote extremely important to the young attendees whose aspirations and futures are currently being shaped: “It’s ok if the project or the thing that you’re working on is a B+ instead of an A or the grade you want. Enjoy the ride- enjoy the journey, try new things. Your mindset is not fixed.”

Since these lectures not only talked about the different and unique aspects of the field, but also emphasized the fact that this generation shapes the future, attendees felt empowered as they walked out. Even though the statistics make the field seem bleak and uninviting for women- don’t be discouraged by it. The future is in our hands, and with the help of a movement that empowers and teaches girls, the outlook of STEM seems a bit pinker.

Photo via GirlCon

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Written By

Hina Matsumoto is a 16 year old living in Chicago, IL but from Nagasaki, Japan. She is a proud first generation immigrant who happens to love fashion, coffee, and especially writing.

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