Microsoft camp teaches Nevada girls about tech careers
RENO, Nev. (AP) — Girls don’t do tech is still widely believed. To change that, Microsoft has been organizing the DigiGirlz, a technology camp for teenage girls in Reno for the last eight years. This year, tech companies in the region such as Tesla, Switch, Oracle and others came together as presenters at the camp.
Ninety teenage girls from different parts of Nevada and elsewhere participated in a two-day tech camp at the University of Nevada, Reno.
They coded, created and designed websites, made robots from scratch in 10 minutes, learned about cyber security threats, made friends and had a ball.
“I had so much fun at this camp,” said Magdalena Albright, a Nevada native. “They don’t really tell us, ‘Do this, do that.’ You have to figure things out. In school, it’s more like Photoshop and design. There’s a lot more coding here, which is really fun.”
This year, DigiGirlz added a focus on the arts to their science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, turning STEM into STEAM.
There were social awareness workshops in which the participants listened to the experiences of successful women in tech. The discussions included topics such as time management, leadership, handling stress, pay gap, gender disparity in the tech industry and more.
Whip smart and socially aware, the participants negotiated gender issues as well as coding.
According to Josie Moleta, an incoming freshman at Reno High School and first-timer at the camp, the workshops helped her to realize why she should follow her interest for technology. She said she is now aware that women constitute only about 30 percent of the workforce in tech.
For Isabella Wick, a repeat participant at DigiGirlz, the camp has been one of the ways she fights gender stereotyping.
“When I was 4, I was the only person in my entire class who would pick up a snake and let it crawl all over you,” Wick said. “And my teacher came up to me and said I am really proud of you because you are a girl.
“And I just thought, why does me being a girl have anything to do with why I like reptiles and snakes? After that, I started to realize that girls and women have a stereotype around them and we are not normally allowed to consider jobs that are ... considered a male area.”
Wick lived in Nevada and moved to Colorado a year ago. She said that “For the longest time, I wanted to be a scientist and a lot of people never took me seriously, and I felt like I had to become more male-like in order to be taken seriously.”
In the last few years, she realized otherwise, she said.
“It’s nice to be able to be smart and pretty and to be taken seriously and not have to worry about people laughing behind your back because you are a girl who wants to be a scientist,” she said.
DigiGirlz has made Wick feel stronger.
“I got to feel like I wasn’t alone, and then I wasn’t weird. Just being around others who are like me means a lot to me.”
The organizers, too, feel the importance of letting young women know that they can go the tech way.
“There is a huge gap between gender and STEM,” said David Taylor, community relations and communications manager at Microsoft. “Microsoft wanted to start a camp that helps identify and inspire the girls to go to tech early, so that they don’t feel not confident in college and later whatever they choose to do to pursue those paths.”
“It is so incredibly important to get them young,” said Dee Freewert, northern Nevada tournament director for First Nevada, organizer of a robot-making workshop at the camp. “Because our society forms ideas that they are going to do administrative jobs, desk jobs.
“We need to show them at a very early age that they can turn around all that. The more we bring young women and see that they can build a robot, that means that they can build an airplane, that means they could engineer bridges.
“You give them that little opportunity, a sense of accomplishment and they are on their way to a tremendous STEM career.”
The spelling of the newspaper’s name has been corrected.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com