Women Help Spark Girls’ Interest in STEM
Partner Success Story
Talk to women working in STEM and they’ll often tell you they’ve been mentored by – or have mentored – other women along their way. And, most of these women were influenced at an early age.
That’s one reason why Wanda Castelvecchi, Security and EN Practice Lead at Cisco Partner ePlus, wanted to help pave the way for our next generation of women in tech. She knew, and research shows, that the best and most impressionable time for girls to develop a long-term interest in science and math is between ages 11 and 15.
Wanda also saw that there were several programs around coding for young girls. But, she wanted girls to see a different and more widespread side of the industry – especially the growing field of cybersecurity. But, it always takes a village. Wendy Davis, from the Cisco’s Partner Sales Acceleration, shared this passion with Wanda and loved what she was up to. And, over a cup of joe, the passion of two women became a fast reality.
Girls Re-Imagining Tomorrow (GRIT) was founded to encourage middle school girls to stay involved in STEM through school and then beyond the classroom. Girls in the program spend 5 months learning about different tech jobs, especially ones that go beyond a desk to code.
They also learn business basics – from mastering public speaking to writing the perfect post-interview thank you notes. Since most of the jobs involve cybersecurity, there are also plenty of lessons on how to become good stewards of technology out in the world, such as staying safe online and combatting cyberbullying.
Now the program is reaching across state lines, with 4 program locations in Raleigh, NC Carolina, Herndon and Richmond, VA, and Irvine, CA. With a total of 74 girls impacted over the last 2 years since the program’s birth.
But, GRIT leaders are dreaming bigger. They want every girl to have access to the program. So they’re working to make it easy to launch from any school, anywhere, which is a perfect task for their tech skills. And with mobile tools like profiles and personality tests, their goal is to help any girl interested in tech to discover her strengths and explore career paths across every area of STEM.
But the mentorship doesn’t stop with the program. GRIT mentors keep in touch, helping girls with networking, internships and other tech-related opportunities. Given the Cisco connection, a popular suggestion is for the girls to volunteer with or attend cyber-themed summer camps, like “Cyber-Patriot,” created by the U.S. government and sponsored in part by Cisco & ePlus. In fact, just this year, the Raleigh program won participation at the camp by entering their very own submission video.
So far GRIT has helped over 70 girls in 5 schools across 4 states with over 50 volunteers, and with no signs of slowing down. The hope is that these girls will, in Wanda’s words, “light the fire and keep it burning” for future generations.
Between today’s teachers and tomorrow’s leaders, there’s a bridge.
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