Photo by : Konstantin Yuganov

ChickTech and AT&T: Turning rural girls into STEM superheroes

It’s undeniable that 2017 has evolved into the year of powerful women. DC Comics gave us the female-centric superhero movie we’ve all been craving with Wonder Woman, which quickly became the highest-grossing live-action movie directed by a woman. But while Wonder Woman’s presence onscreen is breaking records, females are still woefully underrepresented in the workplace – particularly in STEM fields.

In fact, the National Center for Women & Information Technology recently reported that only 26% of computing occupations are held by women. This low volume of female representation in tech careers doesn’t stem from lack of interest, but from not knowing at a young age that these opportunities exist for women in the first place. While there has been a national effort to make STEM education more accessible to girls in schools, they’re often concentrated in urban areas where tech jobs are centered.

These programs don’t often reach girls in rural communities, which is why we’ve teamed up with AT&T Oregon to bring our ChickTech workshops to central Oregon Schools. Thanks to generous contributions totaling $40,000, we are able to develop and sustain a rural pilot program that tests new approaches for bringing STEM-based programs to rural areas.

Our initial test project was held on February 10-11 at the Central Oregon Community College campus in Madras, a small town of 6,046. There were 19 high school girls from the towns of Madras, Prineville, Culver, and the Warm Springs Reservation. Students could choose to participate in either a soft circuits or #d printing workshop, where they could design and create technology projects to take home. The workshops were supplemented by activities that brought together girls from different high schools, building a sense of community within the shared interest of creating technology.

During breaks, girls and volunteers talked about career options in technology and the education that supports those career choices. Being in the setting of the community college also allowed many of the girls to envision themselves as college students and plot their future careers.

Opening the doors of opportunity is the first step in getting young girls to realize their aptitude for technology-based careers. Thanks to AT&T Oregon, we’re able to sustain the current Oregon program while refining our rural program approach – with plans to expand the program to other rural communities nationwide.

None of this would be possible without the support from AT&T Oregon, as well as community leaders like Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who recognized our efforts to bring STEM education to central Oregon girls. Receive the latest updates about how we’re turning girls into STEM superheroes worldwide by subscribing to our monthly ChickTech newsletter below.