On March 23rd I was lucky enough to volunteer at a fantastic Sydney event. It’s called SuperDaughter Day, and the goal is to attract more girls age 5 to 15 to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). That’s a day when amazing women who work in the industry talk to girls and introduce them to different technologies.
During the event, all girls are invited to experience different parts of the industry. Initially the girls are separated into 2 groups based by age. Then they go into the rooms with different activities. Then we take groups of 5-6 girls for short, 20-25 minutes workshops or activities or discussions on specific technology related topics. In 25 minutes groups change places, so if there are 5 activities in the room, you can experience all of them in 2,5 hours.
In our room, there were 4 activities.
- Science group was all about science and how the batteries work. Yes, voltmeter was involved.
- Programming group was learning to programme with Harry Potter magic wands. Who wouldn’t want to do this? It sounds amazing! I am so sorry I didn’t get a chance to try it.
- Engineering – all I saw was the space ship floor plan, and they had me right there 8.
- Robotics – explanations of self-driving cars concepts with robots by yours truly. I also lost my voice by the end of the day, but it was worth it!
I volunteer, mentor and do meetups a lot because I genuinely believe we need to have more women in the industry. However, I also have a feeling that the stuff I do happens too late. The girls that come to my workshops or meetups had the toxic environment shots already. They already heard all the jokes about female developers or engineers and all this crap.
We need to build a safe environment to battle these toxic ideas sooner. If we support our girls from a young age, if we teach them that they can be anything they want to be, in 10 years we will get the tech industry that represents the diverse world around us. And not the list of survivors that we’re having right now.
Also, it’s been a while since I worked with kids (you may not believe it, but I am a music teacher!) and I never worked with Australian kids. So it was super exciting for me.
The first surprise was that about 70% of the girls came in with their dads. The sweetest thing ever is to explain to a girl the robotic system and then listen to how she explains it to her dad.
Second surprise, a quarter of girls were totally into it. They listened, asked questions, directed their parents to me to talk about buying Arduino and where to start with robots. Girls who did not seem interested at all were about 10%. It’s cool, 90% being from slightly interested to totally into it is more than good, it’s incredible!
And the questions. They asked so many questions. From funny ones like “What’s the biggest robot, you can build (Pacific Rim changed this generation)?” to “Сan the car detect other cars if they are moving?”.
Another super exciting thing was to see different personalities. Some girls are very tactile and had to touch everything to understand how it works. Some are very auditory and happy to spend their time listening to Little Robot Friends. Some are introverted and gather themselves before asking some deep questions. Future leaders volunteer for everything and ask if they need anything, like turn the robot on or put it on the floor to see better.
Overall my impression is that girls are amazing, interested and want to be in the industry. It’s such a waste to lose them!
That’s why I think this initiative is fantastic and we should do more stuff like this. Women are 50% of the planet. They should be 50% of STEM too.
I want to thank Tanya Butenko for inviting me to the event. Thank you to all the volunteers spending their weekend on this. Thank you to all the girls and parents who came in to share this day with us.