TechTown Partnership with ChickTech Advances Young Women’s Tech Career Awareness
November 14, 2018
For the past few years, ChickTech has presented the Advancing Careers of Technical Women (ACT-W) Portland Conference, an annual two-day conference bringing together talented women and allies to build their skills and network to advance their careers in technology fields. The conference, like ChickTech itself, focuses on accelerating the careers of women who have already entered the workforce. And in 2018, thanks to a new TechTown partnership, the conference addressed another ChickTech goal: to support young women through mentorship, technical training and exposure to the industry.
By 2024, there will be almost 4.6 million high-wage jobs in computer science and related fields (Bureau of Labor Statistics) but not enough people to fill these positions. Among the bachelor’s degrees awarded in computer and information science in 2013–2014,only 18% were awarded to women. Yet, girls show comparable interest in STEM careers to boys in elementary school. By middle school and high school their interest and confidence in STEM dramatically drops, which many studies attribute to lack of confidence, lack of relevant, hands-on curriculum, and limited knowledge of and exposure to computing careers. These studies highlight the need to mentor girls and provide exposure to science and technology early in life (National Center for Women in IT).
Marcus Carter, Talent Acquisition Partner at Cloudability, recognized the opportunity ACT-W presented to address those needs by encouraging career exploration at the high school level and to scale that opportunity with the collective power of multiple TechTown companies. The conference could create a multi-generational community and a scalable, sustainable model for the future.
Carter brought the idea of sponsorship to the TechTown community, with twelve TechTown companies ultimately supporting the attendance of 68 high school girls from three countries at the ACT-W conference. These students joined more than 500 women in tech to hear speakers and participate in hands-on workshops, one-on-one coaching, and a career fair.
The TechTown companies also partnered with ChickTech to host a VIP lunch, where high schoolers met in small groups with employees from TechTown companies. Finally, a standing-room-only panel included women from TechTown companies speaking to the high schoolers and other attendees. They shared their career experiences and progression as well as ways to successfully identify and obtain professional opportunities.
Opportunities like this are critical to students like Ayantu Boriyu, a high school sophomore who attended the lunch. She, among other curious teens, met with TechTown companies including Cloudability, AWS Elemental, Instrument, Cozy, Jama Software, Learning.com, New Relic, Puppet, EROI, Treehouse, Zapproved, and Open Sesame. These students gained an intimate look at what it’s like to work in tech. Boriyu also spoke at the conference and noted how programs like this only further her commitment and drive to become an engineer.
The encouragement and inspiration Boriyu and her fellow ACT-W participants gained from the conference sprang from the generous contributions and support of TechTown Portland companies. The industry could do even more, given the additional opportunities to support ChickTech.
ChickTech’s main funder recently dissolved their foundation, which means a large portion of their sustaining income disappeared. They need bridge funding while they work to find a permanent solution.
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