Igniting the Spark: From Tech Trekker to eBayJune 16, 2010
Last month in San Ramon, AAUW of California hosted its first ever Tech Trek reunion. Over 100 former campers and dozens of AAUW members and parents celebrated the event by networking and hearing from motivational guest speakers and Jill Birdwhistell, who spoke about Why So Few?, AAUW’s latest research report. Organized by Tech Trek founder and AAUW NGCP Regional Liaison Marie Wolbach, the reunion also featured inspirational speeches from former trekkers, like me, who have STEM majors or degrees. I spoke to the women about the new social media initiatives being created to bring Tech Trek alumnae together.
Tech Trek came at the perfect time in my life. In 7th grade girls are surrounded with gender stereotypes, such as boys are better at math, science, and technology. This included letting the boys raise their hands in class to answer a math or chemistry problem, even though the girls had the right answer all along. I believed this myth until Tech Trek opened my eyes. Not only do I excel at these subjects, I really enjoy them too!
I am dyslexic, and learning to spell was a real struggle at a young age. Tech Trek gave me the confidence to tackle new challenges and to fearlessly approach difficult subject matter.
A few months before Tech Trek, I attended a workshop by Carol Bartz, then-CEO of Autodesk and currently the CEO of Yahoo!, who encouraged girls to embrace male-dominated fields. She told us that of all the company CEOs in the Bay Area, less than five were female. A few of these CEOs were heads of women-oriented companies, such as breast cancer research and female athletic gear.
Her speech and its alarming facts challenged me to break the mold and embrace math and science. Tech Trek was the ideal experience, because I was surrounded by young women just like me, who weren’t afraid to stand out.
After Tech Trek I chose to attend an all-girls high school in San Francisco. Freshman year I jumped at the idea of taking computer programming and honors biology. I went on to take college-level biology classes and labs in high school and was able to utilize my computer design skills on the newspaper as editor-in-chief.
At UC Berkeley, I was always in the front row of a 500-person lecture hall, and I never looked back. I was always eager to raise my hand to participate, a confidence fostered in an all-girls environment. I took graduate courses at the School of Information and completed a research paper on the use of technology in the 2008 elections.
Now I work at eBay, and, although I am on the communications side of the business, I still embrace technology and science. When I need to write about a complicated technology, I take a step back and approach the problem like a fun puzzle waiting to be solved, just as I first learned at Tech Trek.
This post was written by Amanda Coffee, 1999 Tech Trek Stanford Camp.
This post is the third in a new series highlighting great AAUW-led science and math programs for girls. Interested in connecting with other AAUW members interested in STEM? Join us on Facebook or search for “AAUW” in the NGCP Program Directory.