Girls are IT! workshop promotes women in STEM fields

3/20/2014

Nearly 400 students and their teachers discovered new career options during the inaugural Girls are IT! conference held at University of Michigan-Dearborn Wednesday, March 19. The event brought together female students in grades 4-12 from Dearborn, Detroit and Southfield public schools.

The mission? Get young women excited about careers in STEM-related fields (science, technology, engineering and math) and help educators cultivate that excitement.

“You’ll hear a lot of information about the lack of women in information technology and STEM fields,” said Regina Storrs, director of career services at UM-Dearborn. “It is our hope and desire that today there will be a spark, that you’ll realize your creativity, that you’ll understand that we’re depending on you to create new designs, new products and to be leaders of the world.”

Chancellor Daniel Little echoed those thoughts as he welcomed students to campus.

“My greatest hope is you will come away from today excited about careers and excited about developing something new,” he said.

Students spent the morning rotating through workshops. Some cracked secret codes with cryptography while others operated robots. They learned about mobile apps and software development, and then tried their hand at HTML and CSS.

Some students even began thinking about new career paths. That was the case for Celine Buzzi, a Fordson High School sophomore.

“We just wanted to see what kind of options there are out there,” she said. “I loved the security and cyber crime workshop. It was kind of cool because I never really experienced anything like it.”

Organizers hope students’ interest in STEM will lead to more young women entering the field.

“When you look at fixing and changing the world through technology, to me, there’s no better job,” said Cindy Warner, managing partner of cloud strategy and solutions at IBM, who spoke at the event. “There’s nothing I’d rather do than make a difference in this world. And technology makes a difference in this world.”

Students weren’t the only ones getting inspired Thursday.

Teachers also had the chance for some professional development. Tiffany Marra, managing director of the Hub for Teaching and Learning Resources, and Marilee Benore, professor of biology and biochemistry, conducted sessions for teachers on how to incorporate information technology into the classroom.

Girls are IT! was a collaboration between three universities—UM-Dearborn, Lawrence Technological University and University of Detroit Mercy— and Michigan Council of Women in Technology, which is led by executive director Janette Phillips and president Maru Flores. The partners plan to offer future events to continue to encourage young women to pursue STEM programs.

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