(Guest blog entry written by Stephanie Guthrie of CareerMash)
When girls get together, their ideas about the future of the digital tech society can be unstoppable!
That’s why the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam series kicked off with a girls-only event in early April at Fletcher’s Meadow Secondary School in Brampton. With the help of CareerMash’s facilitators, 50 girls from three local high schools shared their hopes, dreams, fears and ideas about the future of technology and the digital society.
CareerMash is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to changing the way that young people in Canada think about careers in technology. The reality is that today’s technology careers do not fit the boring, nerdy, antisocial stereotype that influences popular perceptions of the sector. The tech careers of the 21st century are creative, fun, interesting, social, and highly in-demand! Through CareerMash’s website, in-school programs, and special events like the CareerMash Youth Tech Jam, high school students can learn all about exciting career options working with cool technologies.
In CareerMash’s recent blog about the Girls Learning Code March Break camp, they shared that despite making up almost half of the general workforce, women accounted for only 25 percent of all information technology (IT) occupations in March 2009. Girls are missing out on amazing career opportunities, so that’s why it’s important for them to explore tech in events like the CareerMash Girls Tech Jam.
In groups of eight, girls talked about how they can imagine technology influencing our future in five key areas: healthcare and medical research, education and digital skills, media, arts and culture, energy, environment and sustainability, and transportation and smart cities.
At the end of the CareerMash Girls Tech Jam, each group shared the questions and solutions that emerged from their discussions – and were there ever some cool ideas! One group talked about how technology could be used to remotely monitor the well-being of elderly parents. Another group imagined a city that replaces cars with solar-powered moving walkways and magnetic hover trains.
Having women mentors to look up to is crucial for young women entering a male-dominated world like technology, so CareerMash recruited a group of inspiring female facilitators to spark the girls’ creativity. Five women from the tech world were on-hand to guide discussions: Martha Garriock from Cisco Systems, Estherlita Griffiths from Canadian Tire Corporation, Carolyn Swadron from CIBC, Lindsay Munro from FITC, and Heather Payne from Girls Learning Code.
As CareerMash’s Manager of Community Outreach, I also got to facilitate, and had a lot of fun hearing what my bright group of girls had to say. They were a little shy at first but after a few minutes they began to speak up, especially when we got into the subject of how technology could improve traffic gridlock. One participant mentioned telecommuting as a potential solution – working from home (or around the world!) with the help of phone and video conferencing technology. The girls all agreed that telecommuting could not only lessen gridlock but also reduce carbon emissions. Several girls also pointed out that telecommuting could make life easier for women who wish to earn a living while raising a family.
Indeed, many employers have introduced telecommuting policies to make their workplaces more attractive for female employees. It was interesting that our conversation at the CareerMash Girls Tech Jam seemed to naturally drift toward a technological practice that many people say has special advantages for women. While everyone thought telecommuting had great potential, one participant noted that working from home all the time could leave a person feeling suffocated – home all day with work, home all night with family responsibilities.
Another girl mentioned the importance of networking to career advancement. She suggested that people who work from home have fewer opportunities to make a strong impression on bosses, colleagues, clients, and staff members. The group concluded that, while telecommuting is a valuable option for workers, it should be just that: an option, not a requirement.
Would we have come to the same conclusion in a co-ed group? Maybe I’ll find out in one of the five co-ed CareerMash Youth Tech Jams we’re holding this month!
What do you think about how telecommuting can contribute to more efficient cities, a greener planet and a healthier work/life balance? Tell us in the comments!