In May I had the opportunity to attend the NCWIT Summit, a gathering of hundreds of leaders from the NCWIT community of educators, entrepreneurs, corporate executives, and social scientists to discuss research, ideas, and action items for narrowing the gender gap in fields of technology and IT. Attempting to provide more opportunities for women in technology isn’t just the job of one organization or individual, it takes a team, it takes a whole community and that is why each year NCWIT organizes a summit that offers an environment for peers and leaders to learn and strategize ways they can work on this mission.
At Summit, I had the chance to participate and help out at sessions that discussed ways to engage more girls K-12 in technology including a session with teachers, educators and professors who all work with programs that engage girls in technology in some shape or form. One of the biggest take away I got was- there are people out there who are looking to help- always be willing to seek out helpers. There is a lot going on in the world and it can be easy to think everything is bad but you have to be willing to go out there and find what is right for you, you have to create opportunities for yourself, regardless of who you are, there is a space for you. We heard from an incredible amount of speakers and two of my personal favorites were Dave Filoni, the executive producer and supervising director of Star Wars Rebels and Melissa Harris- Perry, a professor at Wake Forest University and the Editor-at-Large for Elle Magazine. Dr. Perry talked a lot about race and the importance of creating more opportunities for colored women to enter fields of technology while also mentioning the importance of perspectives we bring; the same issue or technology seen by someone who has lived a different life or journey than you is critical in exploring and creating technologies because they may see and lead in a way that is different, innovative and needed. She then went on to mention that earlier this year, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein was awarded a PhD in theoretical physics at MIT. Nothing really surprising or unusual about that (although good news for Dr. Prescod-Weinstein), until you realize that Dr. Prescod-Weinstein is not just an African-American woman, she is one of only 83 African-American women to receive a PhD in physics or a physics-related field. 83. Not 83 in the past year, or 83 at MIT, or 83 with hyphenated last names. 83 African-American women with PhD’s in physics EVER. In all of American history. Shocking and a clear need to create more opportunities and resources to increase the amount of women and girls in computing and STEM related fields. For more on the Summit and ways you can help increase women and girls meaningful participation in STEM, visit the NCWIT site or read a recap of Dr. Perry’s keynote speech at this year’s summit.