Sometime around middle school, girls stop saying they want to go into tech.
Nobody is entirely sure why things change around that age — before that, many young girls show an interest in technology-related fields. But around the seventh or eighth grade, that interest drops among many young girls, eventually leading to fewer women entering the tech industry.
Mindbody’s Women in Tech group is looking to change that.
The group, made up of female and male employees at the wellness software company, hosted a “Get Geeked in Tech” event Thursday that brought more than 85 middle and high school students to the company’s headquarters in San Luis Obispo.
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“We decided this would be a good event for young women at an age when they typically leave tech,” Women in Tech Coordinator Kelly Irish said. “They don’t know exactly why, but they think it’s a time when girls don’t want to be considered smarter than boys. So this way we can tell them that it’s OK to be smarter than boys; it’s OK to be the nerd, to be the geek.”
The event featured female tech leaders from around the county, sharing their stories of how they got into and overcame struggles in the industry.
“I know there are many people who would not have imagined I would end up on this stage today,” said Kristen Hazard, founder of environmental services app Wildnote. “They didn’t have a very high opinion of me. They didn’t think I would go very far. So don’t believe any of that. Just keep grinding, and make your way to where you are going.”
This way we can tell them that it’s OK to be smarter than boys; it’s OK to be the nerd, to be the geek.
Kelly Irish, Women in Tech coordinator
Other speakers included Maggie Von Stein, founder of Savvy Leadership Academy; Lorelei Sibet, founder of OneSiren and investor in SLO Makerspace; and Gale McCreary, CEO, president and founder of CareSeek.
The kids in the audience had the opportunity to chat with the speakers and ask about their experiences. Many asked what speakers’ favorite things about their jobs were; others asked about coding, internships and the specific fields they should explore.
Meanwhile, parents and teachers filled the back of the room, mingling and listening to the conversations between students and mentors.
“I really want the parents to be happy about it too, and really feel like they can encourage their kids to code and to get into tech,” Irish said. “We just don’t have enough people (in tech), so any little bit helps. These kids are going to be the kids that make our future.”
Irish said the Women in Tech group hopes to host similar events quarterly, and reach out to other women in the field for events and discussions.