Starting Early: Getting Girls Ready for High-Tech Careers

“How many of you know what ‘eh’ means?” GIRLsmarts4tech volunteer Jennifer Coleman asked 50 American girls, as 64 Canadian girls backed her up – all of which were connected using SAP’s video conferencing system.

It was part of an icebreaker to see how many of these young ladies knew about Canada’s iconic colloquialism. It was also part of GIRLsmarts4tech, an international conference gathering Grade 7 girls together and encouraging them to explore the field of technology.

The icebreaker soon eased into fun and friendly conversation, which included “Have you been to Disneyland?” and “How cold is it in Canada?” as well as genuine curiosity and excitement about the chance to learn more about technology.

It’s Time for This Conversation

Women earn 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees, but only 18 percent of all undergraduate degrees are in computer and information sciences, according to the National Center for Women Information Technology. That discrepancy drove SAP to partner with the University of British Columbia, launching this one-day workshop that spanned SAP offices in Vancouver and Palo Alto earlier this month, and included 50 volunteers.

Participants were interested in a variety of technologies, and the workshop design ensured that there was something for everybody. Each girl participated in four different sessions, covering topics such as programming, social gaming, music & technology and user interface design.

The music and technology session taught girls how to record, edit and mix tunes using software. It was a very practical exercise because they were songs the girls know by popular artists, such as Kelly Clarkson. “The software looked confusing,” said Kelsey, 12. “But it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.”

Hands-On Practice

All the new information seemed overwhelming at first, but time in the driver’s seat really helped the girls understand user interface design. To design a video-making app, they brainstormed initial ideas together, and then used papers, stickers, pencils and an iPad to bring their designs to life.

“I plan to use POP to design another app,” one of the girls said, clearly impressed by what she’d accomplished on the iPad.

Once they got their hands on the technology, the girls became fully engaged with their projects. All the participants seemed to wish there was more time. GIRLsmarts4tech cofounder Darriel Dawne ended the day by asking the girls if they felt more inspired to continue learning about technology. All of the girls raised their hands.

Not bad for volunteering on a Saturday, eh?

Follow Anita on Twitter: @anitawky

This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.