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Last night I met a superhero - Jewella

Last night I met a superhero. Her name was Jewella… by day she’s Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen and she’s amazing!

Last night I met a superhero - Jewella

She’s spent the last 15 years researching and talking about why girls aren’t engaged with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and she’s doing something about it. She’s founded the Tech Girls Movement and the research shows she’s making a difference.

I got to meet a superhero because Otago Polytechnic and Ara had invited her to inspire some of Dunedin and Christchurch (respectively) young women!

Why do we have a lack of girls engaged with STEM?

“STEM is not cool”. Girls, especially during those years from 11-17 - when fitting in or having a group to belong to is so important - believe that tech is for geeks… and who wants to be labelled as a geek?

Yes, there’s 20% of us out there who engaged enough with STEM that fitting in didn’t drive us away, but there’s 60% of girls who once they see other girls (cool girls… superheroes even) engaged with STEM realise that it might be for them too. The other 20% - well STEM is not for them and that’s cool too… they will have other superheroes as their role models.

I was shocked when Jenine told me that girls as young as 6 were opting out of STEM!

What is Jewella doing about it?

She’s telling stories! Even better she’s written those stories down in a book that is now in every school in Australia. Let’s say that again: the book “tech girls are superheros” is in EVERY school in Australia.

She’s developed a 12 week programme that can be used within the curriculum or can be run in lunchtime/after school sessions. In this programme girls are invited to be entrepreneurs. They form groups and define real problems that impact them and then determine the solution to these problems. Only at this point do they get introduced to digital tech and they develop apps that help solve these problems.

They develop apps for carpooling for after school sports. They develop apps so that their separated parents are both aware of the things they are doing (without fighting). Along the way they develop friendships and discover the superhero within. The best of those teams fly to San Francisco – to compete on the world stage and then hang in silicon valley for a week… now that IS cool.

But wait… there’s more

Those of you that are parents, know that, should your child come home full of passion about a career you’re not so keen on, you quietly put your argument that there might be something else that’s out there. This is another reason that girls don’t engage with digital tech. After all who in their right mind would want their beloved daughter spending the rest of her career with the (supposedly) over-weight, poorly dressed, antisocial, introverts that (supposedly) make up the world of digital tech?

To help with this Jewella has developed a concept of Daughter Days – where the girls get to take their parents along on the same journey – they have fun and discover that tech is cool and not geeky! 

And more…

The thing that’s even more exciting for me though is she’s branching out to New Zealand. A programme, a community, a challenge that’s there, ready and free to use by anybody – and Jewella has the research that proves it works!

How can you help?

Glad you asked! Jewella hasn’t landed on a business model that is sustainable yet so relies on sponsorship – go to www.techgirlsmovement.org and click on the donate button. The programme also relies on having real live mentors (superheroes) to support the teams - you can sign up on her website. Don’t have enough time or money for either of those? Then tell and share stories - there’s a digital transformation happening in business so let’s make sure our tamariki are ready to join.

Posted by: Cheryl Adams, Practice Manager, Enterprise Solutions | 03 April 2017

Tags: Women in Tech

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