Girls Who Code Gala 2018: Imagining a World Beyond Equity – How General Electric Develops Women in STEM

During International Women’s Day 2018, women from all over the world: Spain, Pakistan, Uganda, Italy, Russia, South Korea, Philippines, Afghanistan, Japan, Argentina, USA, India, Paris, Mexico etc. chose to make their voices heard through marches, rallies, speeches, strikes and celebrations of women’s achievements. When it comes to women’s rights, in the last two years especially, the world has felt the determination, boldness and persistence for change.

“Achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is the unfinished business of our time, and the greatest human rights challenge in our world.” — UN Secretary-General, António Guterres

This year, along with GE’s CIO and many of my lady colleagues from the New York metropolitan area, we celebrated and supported a movement that is transforming girl’s lives, empowering them to reach their full potential in the technology space. The Girls Who Code Gala in New York City was inspiring in so many ways! GE was one of the Host Committee members of the event as well as a partner that engages with the Girls Who Code camps across many of our sites. The goal of GWC is to reach over 50 thousand girls across the US by the end of the 2018 academic year and they’re making sure to involve everyone with the willingness to educate and inspire. You Too!

Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, gave a moving speech emphasizing the movement’s motto: Learn to code and change the world! Who is a girl who codes? It is a girl who has fun playing sports, baking, making art, a girl who loves spending time with her friends, a girl who wants to make her dreams come true just like you. She is more than just a coder, she is a champion for change, a crusader, an innovator that wants to contribute to a cause. Girls who code are change makers, imagining a world beyond equity. Girls who code develop solutions for the world’s toughest problems, they demand progress without having to sacrifice their rights along the journey.

Among the speakers were Girls Who Code alumni who are now studying or aspiring to study computer science and engineering in college; girls from different parts of the US, different minorities, races and various socio-economic backgrounds; girls who had created apps and built websites to solve problems in their communities. Seeing how passionately they spoke about the impact of the Girls Who Code camp in their lives and those of others, it was obvious that the first lesson they learned once joining a camp was how to believe in themselves; how important it is to be brave, not perfect! Once they understood they were more than capable of coding, there was nothing that could stop their curiosity to learn and reach their full potential. Brave girls are the ones who lead through challenging times!

” Some people worry about our federal deficit. But I worry about our bravery deficit. Our economy, our society, we’re losing out because we’re not raising our girls to be brave. The bravery deficit is the reason why women are underrepresented in STEM, in C-suites, in boardrooms, in Congress, and pretty much everywhere you look.” — GWC Founder Reshma Saujani

Reshma Saujani is not a coder; she was a lawyer and the first South Asian woman to run for congress. Neither is Bozoma Saint John, Uber’s Chief Brands Officer, also present during the event. Arianna Huffington, the GWC Gala keynote speaker, is not a coder either; she is a businesswoman and most recently a member of Uber’s Board of Directors where her main focus is changing the tech start-up’s culture at its core. What do these women have in common? Just like the Girls Who Code alumni they also come from very diverse backgrounds. What brings them together is their passion for closing the gender gap in the tech space. And that’s why the GE team was honored to be among them. We share the same goal when it comes to women in STEM.

At GE we are storytellers, we want you to know about What Matters! It is important for everyone to imagine a world where women like Millie Dresselhaus, Female Scientist, Were Treated Like A Celebrity. We highlight Unseen Stars and celebrate women in STEM among the stars, in 2017 amid Grand Central’s Constellations. We want you to Meet Molly, the Kid Who Never Stops Inventing so that like my Software Engineering classmate Kristen Costagliola, you too can experience that ‘Aha’ moment and reflect on who inspired you to pursue a STEM education “Everything I Need to Know About Being a Woman in Tech I Learned from My Grandmother“. This is how my children proudly imagine What Their Mom Does at GE!

As one of my mentors, Natalie Delemar stated at the 2017 Oracle Open World Technology Conference: “While mentoring and sponsorship are important, there are key differences: women in the workplace are actually over mentored and under sponsored.” This is how GE works together to #BalanceTheEquation by believing and sponsoring bright women across the world in places where women’s rights still have a long way to go: Female Engineer Powers Pakistan & Empowers Girls, we sponsor women employment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, by opening the first All-Female Business Center of its kind in the world. GE has also started a Work Life Revolution: I echo the sentiment of my mentor, Christina Clark, from the article that GE’s flexible working arrangements, the very supporting managers and colleagues made it possible for me and many other women not to have to make the hard decision between creating a family or pursuing a successful career in a STEM field.

At GE we engineer healthcare devices, airplane engines, power grids, but at the same time we’re also in a path of Engineering the Future: The Socio-Economic Case for Gender Equality. We know that there’s a talent crisis for women in STEM roles given that in the US today, only 14% of all engineers and 25% of all IT professionals are women. There are many reasons why women don’t pursue STEM careers or why they decide to drop from a technical field. At GE we are lucky to have the support of a solid Women’s Network that lately celebrated its 20th anniversary. Throughout the network’s 160 hubs across 60 countries, women are heard, encouraged and supported. For over 10 years, the GE Women’s Network also funds scholarships for female engineering students through the Society of Women Engineers (SWE). But we’re not stopping there.

The GE Women’s Network runs the GE Girls program, an initiative designed to encourage girls to explore the world of science, technology, engineering and math and STEM-based careers. The curriculum was created in collaboration with MIT where the first camp was held as well. This format has been used to reach hundreds of girls and expand the program to 20+ other locations over the years. You’d think that most of our volunteers are graduates of GE’s Digital Technology Leadership Program, but that is not the case. Volunteers from all functions: marketing, finance, sales, information technology etc. give their time for a few months to prep and organize the yearly summer camps, coordinating with local public schools for the selection process, ordering supplies, managing logistics and communications so that all girls have a memorable time during the camp. The following are some photos of the activities of the GE Girls 2017 at the University of Connecticut.

As we look ahead to our July 2018 GE Girls camp at the University of Connecticut, we will certainly introduce the girls to the book Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World. All chapters highlight tips from pros, setting an example for them to look up to: 1.It all starts with “Hello World” 2.Why coding 3.How to talk to your computer 4.Putting it all together 5.Cracking the “code” 6.Debugging 7.Video games 8.Digital art and design 9.Robots 10.Websites, mobile apps, online security.

We also hope to engage Girls Who Code alumni to visit the GE Girls camp. This would be a great experience for our middle school girls to see that there are many opportunities ahead to help them grow in the STEM space. The Girls Who Code alumni would in turn have the chance to network with GE women in STEM. In the end, we might as well all create a fun interactive story about our camp using Scratch programming.Let’s get our GE Girls and many other girls we care about to become Girls Who Code!

RECAP: GE Girls 2018 UCONN STEM Summer Camp: How General Electric Inspires Young Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

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Original Post published on LinkedIn


Neviana Zhgaba

Sr. Technical Product Manager

Finance EPM at General Electric

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