Iridium Communications, Inc.
Washington DC, USA, 2014, May 28
Iridium collaborated with McKinley Technology High School and Access Partnership to create a mentoring program for girls pursuing academic careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The program is the first effort by Iridium to celebrate ITU's Girls in ICT Day, and the inaugural event, described here, was entitled "Cupcakes and Tech Careers."
McKinley Tech is exceptional in that it is an application only school for students with demonstrated acumen in STEM. Located in Washington DC, it is one of two full STEM high schools in the city. While McKinley Tech's student body is drawn largely from an economically disadvantaged background, it is among the highest achievers in the DC public school system with 91% and 82% of its students scoring proficient or advanced scores in math and reading, respectively.
Despite the constructive academic environment, many of the young women lack professional role models. The goal of "Cupcakes and Tech Careers" was to provide hands-on university and career mentoring for highschool age girls. Thirty-eight young women participated in the event. An impressive group of speakers and female engineering mentors joined the event to provide guidance, including
- Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, US Federal Communications Commission
- Donna Bethea Murphy, Vice President, Regulatory Engineering, Iridium Communications
- Louise Jones, Principal, McKinley Technology High School
- Kathryn Martin, Director, Access Partnership
Commissioner Rosenworcel inspired students with background on her career and noted: "The best decisions are made when there is diversity at the table. We don't have enough women in technology at the highest levels, and this is a gender gap you are going to help us address."
After opening remarks, the girls broke into discussion groups, with each assigned a female engineering mentor (8 women engineers joined us). The mentors provided their own stories of success and setbacks in their careers. The mentoring sessions were designed to give girls an opportunity to ask questions, express concerns, and seek assistance. The goal was to inspire a sense of optimism alongside concrete academic and professional recommendations.
The girls shared conclusions at the end of the session. Some of the themes reported by the students included:
- the benefits of continuing STEM/IT-related education, such as gaining a competitive edge in job hunting and exposure to different cultures as technology is global;
- the importance of understanding one's worth, even as a new graduate;
- the importance of demonstrating technical skills; and,
- the value of mentorships, internships, and social networking in preparing for a career in a male dominated field.
The event provided insight into the challenges faced by young women pursuing a STEM education. The positive environment, fellowship and networking continued as the girls and mentors enjoyed cupcakes and expressed a desire to hold future events to celebrate ITU's Girls in ICT initiative.
Sponsors: Iridium Communications, Access Partnership, McKinley Technology High School