This post was written by Gabriela A. Gonzalez, Deputy Director for U.S. and Latin America, Intel’s Corporate Affairs Group
Intel recognizes that more needs to be done to help close the gender gap in the tech industry, and we will see greater results through collaboration. This “WiSci” public-private partnership is just one of many examples of the small and large steps we’re taking: the results are best observed through the participants’ experiences in their own words:
Sabah from the U.S. described: “A few days ago (we) built a windmill in one of the classes. With my limited Spanish and my partner’s limited English, we finished it. It was not only the final product which gave me pride, but the process that led us to it. This camp has opened my mind and has allowed me to go into issues beyond science that are not learned in the classroom: empathy, understanding and coexistence”.
Leslie from Peru told us that: “WiSci has opened my eyes and shown me that, although I am ‘a girl’, I can find my place, fight for my rights and pursue everything that I love, like science and technology. I have been the victim of countless rejections, but now I know that they will not happen again since my mindset and empowerment have been enriched”.
Estefania from Mexico learned not only that science and technology were viable career options for her but that their application could help make millions of people’s lives better. She told us that she didn’t know yet what career she would eventually choose but that the WiSci camp “provided additional knowledge and information that would help (her) make a better career decision”.
The Women in Science (WiSci) STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) Camp aims to bridge the technology gender gap through access to education, mentorship connections and leadership training. It is also part of the “Let Girls Learn” and “62MillionGirls” initiatives inspired by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama to ensure adolescent girls get the education to build brighter futures and stronger communities.
This is the second year that Intel is proud to be a leading industry partner for the WiSci STEAM camp in close collaboration with the U.S. Department of State and the United Nations Foundation (UNF) Girl Up Campaign. New partners also joined in 2016, including the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), driving the advancement of women’s economic and political participation, and Google. This year’s WiSci STEAM camp was held in Peru at the Huampani Convention Center, about one hour’s drive west of Lima, from July 23 through August 6, 2016, and brought together 100 high school girls from Peru, Mexico, Chile and the U.S. Last year’s camp was held at the Gashora Girls Academy in Rwanda.
These strategic alliances and partnerships directly support Intel’s corporate social responsibility interests. Inspiring and equipping more girls and women with the skills to become creators of technology in our increasingly smart, connected world supports our corporate vision. And the outcomes from these partnerships are even more powerful and compelling for the participants. Each young woman participating in the WiSci camp brings along a unique experience based on her culture, her environment, her traditions and her family upbringing. This makes for a distinctive camp experience where girls from different nations come together to understand and share a multicultural exchange while also learning new skills and working together to innovate technologies which can have a positive social impact in their communities.
According to research, there are many factors that create persistent barriers for young women to enter technical education and careers. One of those factors is the perceived detachment between STEM careers and social responsibility. Dr. Sheila Widnall, an Aeronautics professor at MIT, asserts that
one of the top reasons for women not pursuing engineering is the lack of connection between engineering and the problems of our society and the lack of understanding about what engineers do (Digits of pi: Barriers and enablers for women in engineering, 2000). Another factor is the lingering adverse stereotypes and lack of relatable positive role models. Stanford Sociology professor Shelley Correll sees negative stereotypes as the key contributors for why there aren’t more women in engineering and science (Negative+Math+Stereotypes=Too Few Women”, 2011).
To help close the gender gap in the tech industry, a greater understanding of the sociocultural factors earlier in the girls’ educational journeys, specifically around the early teen years, is essential. Gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic status must also be taken into account when designing outreach strategies for girls in STEAM. Rather than applying a myopic lens of inclusion based primarily on academic interest or performance, public-private partnerships can facilitate more effective and meaningful interventions based on a comprehensive understanding of both the social and economic circumstances that may produce the barriers preventing girls from full inclusion and participation in STEAM education and careers.
The WiSci model of outreach brings together girls from various socioeconomic backgrounds and diverse cultures and environments to develop future leaders and technology innovators. It also empowers the girls through collective advocacy and action-oriented activities by exposing them to leadership, self-efficacy, communication, and technology concepts through hands-on and interactive workshops.
This is why the WiSci framework of public-private partnerships and engagement with young women works. And this is why Intel continued its commitment to once again support the WiSci STEAM Camp in Peru this summer.
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