Today’s blog was prepared for the Internet Advisors show on WJR 760AM and on the Michigan Radio Network. You can access podcasts from the media section of our site with content from Emily A. Hay, the show’s Social Media Contributor.
The Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) is the premier association for professional women within Michigan’s technology community. This group, with an impressive roster of managing and advisory board members, strongly supports Michigan and its technology-oriented women and its future industry leaders.
MCWT recently hosted two “Camp Infinity” programs; a one-week summer technology camp for 9-13 year old girls created by the MCWT Foundation. According to their website, the camp addresses the primary reasons girls lose interest in technology – confidence, social relevance, and social (peer) acceptance.
Some facts from the MCWT site about why they run Camp Infinity:
- Women are 20% of the IT workforce, from nearly 50% in 1982
- Need for 750,000 new IT/CS workers in the US by 2015
- Graduating 40,000 per year, approximately 5% are women
- Girls are tech-savvy, confident technology users
- Not interested in pursuing a technical career
- Data shows that elementary girls are interested and competitive in STEM (math), but the majority lose interest before high school.
As the founder of a social media start-up, with an all-female team, I’m encouraged by the role social technology plays in addressing reasons girls lose interest in tech (i.e. confidence, social relevance, and social (peer) acceptance). Our smartphone loving team doesn’t write code or develop apps; we don’t “game” or consider ourselves IT people. We put social technology to use to foster relationships and facilitate communities of like-minded people on a personal and professional level.
It’s time to encourage and nurture tech-savvy tween girls through social technology.
With the emergence of social media girls have an “in” in tech starting within the context of social interaction. With kids today being raised in a digital world, offline and online lives blend and today it’s cool to be geeky. In fact “geeky” is old school terminology; now it’s COOL to be “tech-savvy”.
Social media fosters a healthy “if she can do it, I can do it” mentality. A goal can seem unattainable if one can’t envision themselves in that person’s shoes. With more women using social media to develop their own tech skills, expand their personal interests and start businesses, there are more examples for younger girls to relate to and be confident following.
Social technology creates and drives business. Companies lay down the cash to connect with their customers through social media and who is a vocal, decision-making demographic? WOMEN ARE! Furthermore, a girl named Tori Molnar started an eCommerce “franchise” business at age 15: http://myutoria.com/ Her mission: “Where Teenage and College Girls Learn about Business and Make Money!” It may be a far-fetched concept to older folks who still think lemonade stands are the only “kid business” opportunities. But in this digital world, young ladies generating commerce from behind the screens of their smartphones are viewed as leaders and innovators.
HR, sales and marketing are other departments impacted by social technology today. Think of the advantage a young woman has today coming out of college with years of social networking experience. Executives in any industry will need to know social media in order to stay competitive and women can take the lead here.
Following, sharing, retweeting (RTing) – women in social media world seem to have each other’s back. Many other fields and traditional work environments, on the other hand, have been known to not foster that kind of acceptance and support. Social media enables women to raise our voices and collaborate on ideas and take action together.
Women today develop diverse and lasting friendships through the wide use of social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs and YouTube. Social media has no geographical boundary and it removes feelings of isolation and enables a community of individuals to grow and thrive among very public support.
Personally, I am very passionate about social media as a perfect launch pad to propel women back into technology-related jobs. I could never have envisioned starting a “tech” company if we were speaking in terms of bits, protocols, writing code and fixing viruses. But social media has given women a productive path to develop our technology skills in way that fits our interests and talents.
Kudos to organizations from the Michigan Council of Women in Technology to Girl Scouts who foster and encourage this kind of technology-based learning today that can have lasting positive effects for girls tomorrow! Our own team of tech-savvy women is excited to contribute to this shift.
~Emily A. Hay