October 31, 2013

The Silicon Ceiling


Shelby: Seventy-five percent of the jobs in technology are held by men. So to get more girls to go into the field, a female scientist created a contest with one major rule: no boys allowed. Scott Evans has the scoop.

Scott: It is called the Technovation Challenge. One hundred teams looking to tackle real world problems with innovative, tech-driven solutions. And it is girls only, by design.

Tara Chklovski helped create the contest based in part on her own real world experience.

Tara Chklovski: I’m an aerospace engineer and I have a degree in physics, and I was always the only girl in the class.

Scott: In most schools and workplaces in her field today, she might still be. A recent survey found that just 13% of high school girls compared to 40% of high school boys wanted careers in science, technology, engineering or math, or STEM, for short.

Chklovski: The problem is kind of deep, so a girl doesn’t think that computer science or programming is something cool.

Scott: She says the Challenge works to show young girls the cool factor.

Tara: This kind of experience should be given to girls much earlier so that before they jump into the workforce, they have a positive experience that says, ‘Yes, we can do this.’

Scott: The Challenge is bigger than a contest, of course, because smart teenage girls are all too aware of the latest headlines about how women are discriminated against in the tech world.

Here is what 16-year-old Claire Huang figures she would have to deal with if she chooses a career in technology.

Claire Huang: Not being intimidated by men in the workforce, not being put down by them, not being given menial tasks.

Scott: Her team from Palo Alto’s Castilleja High School in California reached the finals, developing an app that connects students to places to volunteer. And her teammates have been inspired by the competition.

Student: I’m really interested in – any way I can – just making a difference in people’s lives.

Scott: Finals were held in California’s Silicon Valley. And when that many determined girls get together in a place where boys get most of the jobs…

Chklovski: Self-confidence dramatically increases. You have a lot of people cheering for you. It’s a life-changing experience.

Scott: Claire’s team didn’t even win the big title. But it didn’t seem to matter.

Claire: I’m not intimidated anymore. I’m ready to go out there, build our app and just pursue a career in this.

Scott: And by the time she gets there, perhaps she will have inspired other girls along the way.

Scott Evans, Channel One News.


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