It’s widely accepted that the STEM gender gap reaches a tipping point in middle school. By the eighth grade — despite equal achievement — only half as many girls as boys are interested in STEM careers.
Unfortunately many schools don’t have sufficient technology education or devices to help reverse this statistic. Meanwhile, organizations like TechGirlz that offer outside-the-classroom education are finding it difficult to reach some of the populations most interested in attending our workshops.
To make real progress, we must begin at the grassroots level and meet students where they are.
Hosted by the Free Library’s neighborhood branches, powered by TechGirlz’s open-sourced curriculum and led by TechGirlz mentors and university students, the partnership works for a few reasons.
1. We are tackling all sides of the accessibility issue
- Philadelphia’s libraries are centrally located, making them convenient destinations for families without transportation. Kicking off at the South Philadelphia Library, the workshops will spread to several more Free Library locations in the coming months. Additionally, their branches will provide devices so that students without laptops or tablets can take part.
2. We are showing girls the diversity of available tech careers
- Of course “girls can code,” but we also want to show them the broad spectrum of careers in the innovation economy. Our first workshop, which took place Oct. 4, taught students to make websites using WordPress. Our next workshop is coming up tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 21, and will focus on Designing Mobile Apps. After that, it’s Program with Kudo on Nov. 15. Going forward, the Free Library will be able to tap into TechGirlz’s full curriculum of topics from podcasting to video game development.
3. We are making mentorship a centerpiece of the program
- Including university students as teachers offers a particularly effective set of role models — students who are relatively close in age, and successfully pursuing an education and career in STEM.
“This series of TechGirlz workshops is a perfect example of the good that can be done when Philadelphia organizations and institutions come together,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “With support from the City — through Startup PHL’s Call for Ideas grant, the Knight Foundation, and the Herbert A. and Grace H. Dow Foundation, TechGirlz is now able to expand access to technology for Philadelphia’s young women. I’m proud we were able to back this effort, and I look forward to seeing the impact it has on its participants.”
When it comes to closing the gender gap in STEM, Philadelphia’s schools should not have to go at it alone.
To learn more about how we can work together to empower middle schools through technology, visit our website.