Tech Savvy Is For Adults, Too

Middle School students and their families learn about spectroscopes at the first Middle School Mad Science Night at the Goddard Space Flight Center Visitor Center.

Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Flickr Creative Commons

April 02, 2013

For girls in Buffalo, New York, March 16 was an exciting day: The local AAUW branch hosted its eighth annual Tech Savvy conference, a program that exposes girls in sixth–ninth grades to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Tech Savvy has been commended — including by the White House — for introducing girls to the diversity and the importance of STEM careers. An equally important part of the program, and one that makes Tech Savvy unique, is the dynamic session it offers adults.

Family members play a very important role in their children’s success. For many people, parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles form a vital support network. Girls depend on their families for encouragement and look to them as role models.

When AAUW member Tamara Brown created the Tech Savvy program, she knew how important it was to get families involved. While girls spend the day in workshops with STEM women professionals, family members hear from experts about how to support their girls on the path to higher education and a career.

This year, AAUW Senior Researcher Christianne Corbett presented AAUW’s latest research report to the parents and other adults who attended Tech Savvy. Parents were engaged, curious, and clearly looking out for their daughters’ best interests. Naturally, they  asked about pay, but they also asked about how welcoming the STEM workplace is for women, sexual harassment, and how to encourage their girls’ interest in STEM careers.

Members of the local community also spoke to the adults present about challenges and opportunities for girls in the STEM fields. A young civil engineer and Buffalo native, Denine Jackson, described her career path and the challenges and rewards of her current job as the only woman in a technical role at the Buffalo Sewer Authority. A University of Buffalo professor discussed how girls can pursue STEM interests through high school and college and a consultant from energy company and Tech Savvy co-sponsor Praxair spoke about some of the research opportunities that a STEM career provided. Hearing from these Buffalo locals and other experts helped parents picture how their daughters might pursue STEM careers without leaving their communities behind.

For both students and parents, the eighth annual Tech Savvy in Buffalo was a great success. As one father said, “I believe it is important to expose my daughters to Tech Savvy because it gives them the opportunity to interact with other girls with great minds who also are interested in pursuing STEM careers [and to] meet with successful women in STEM careers.”

AAUW looks forward to bringing the Tech Savvy program to 10 new cities this summer through the generous support of the Praxair Foundation. We can’t wait to hear how the conferences inspire both girls and their parents in the year to come.

Alexa Silverman By:   |   April 02, 2013