By Lindsay Lorenz
PBN Staff Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN - More than 470 girls from local high schools spent yesterday at the University of Rhode Island exploring STEM industries and career pathways during Tech Collective’s 12th annual GRRL Tech event.
Girls Reaching Remarkable Levels is an interactive technology expo in which female students are exposed to opportunities in the science, technology, engineering and math fields through hands-on workshops.
During the event, students attended their choice of two out of 24 woman-taught workshops that covered topics as diverse as bioscience, physics and oceanography, and heard from keynote speaker Ruthe Farmer, director of strategic initiatives for the National Center for Women and Information Technology.
Farmer stressed to students that the need for women in technology fields is about more than just filling jobs.
“We need the contribution of girls’ technical minds in order to build the most innovative solutions to solve the global challenges we face as a society,” she said during her speech. “Currently, the contributions of women are largely missing from technology and innovation, yet women make up more than half of the populations and workforce, make the bulk of consumer decisions and are the primary educators of our children. It makes no sense to continue building a technical world with a team that isn’t reflective of the people it serves. We can only dream of the innovative solutions we’ll see when women are equally represented as designers and creators of technology.”
Three local students were awarded $4,000 scholarships for their participation in GRRL Tech’s essay contest. Winners included Tinuola Agbelusi, a sophomore at North Providence High School; Madison Panell, a junior at Tiverton High School; and Hannah Waters, a junior at Smithfield High School.
Throughout the day, more than 60 female industry professionals and university volunteers took part in workshops and helped to facilitate the day.
According to Tech Collective, low participation of women in the STEM fields traditionally has been attributed to less awareness and a lack of female role models in these industries, in addition to gender barriers, stereotypes and the difficulties of balancing a career with personal and family obligations.
“The technology industry needs the impact and innovation these young ladies can bring to the table,” said JoAnn Johnson, manager of youth and education programs for Tech Collective, in prepared remarks. “GRRL Tech aims to inspire that. Of course, not all of the students attending today will pursue STEM careers, but many will walk away with knowledge and maybe even a confidence they may not have had before. That is a success we are proud of as GRRL Tech has become an exciting tradition, not only for the Tech Collective staff, but also for our industry community and local high schools and career and tech centers.”