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#GirlsInSTEM 2 & 3 ~ DigiGirlz

#GirlsInSTEM 3 ~ DigiGirlz Virtual Meeting 2020

The Esperance #SoroptimistsConnect with its community during the Covid-19 pandemic and hosted DigiGirlzDayTT, a virtual event, in partnership with Microsoft Trinidad.  The target group was secondary school girls from rural communities who oftentimes do not pursue tertiary level education, particularly in STEM. They were able to log on from their own homes. The objective was to encourage them into technology careers, achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls.

“You can’t be what you can’t see” Sheridan Ash, Technology Innovation Lead PwC UK.Globally, there is gender imbalance at the highest levels of industry in the STEM disciplines with women being under-represented.  For the second year, SI Esperance partnered with Microsoft, to host DigiGirlzDayTT, rallying behind the call of Ms. Sheridan Ash. The objectives were to expose girls to female thought-leaders in the sector, to raise their awareness of opportunities available to them in the emerging digital economy and to inspire them to pursue careers in these fields. STEM education is critical to creating a qualified workforce of the future. SI Esperance advocates for girls being part of that future, bringing a feminine perspective to the table.

Topics covered were The Pervasiveness of Artificial Intelligence, Making a Career in Web Development, Personal Branding on LinkedIn & Video Gaming as part of the technology sector. This project raised awareness of career opportunities in the technology sector as evidenced by student feedback. The students were able to add comments and questions during the virtual experience and they were all interested and positive. The fact that the event was covered in two national newspapers meant that the message of the need for more women and girls in STEM went out to thousands on the islands. Additionally, the partnership of SI Esperance with a prestigious organisation such as Microsoft was well publicised as #SoroptimistsConnect within community.

“I’m really interested in the points of personal branding and finding a unique voice. Also I was drawn to the fact that the second speaker made the point to ‘ask people about what they think about you’ to help in creating a personal branding.”

“Excellent job. All presentations added another dimension and much food for thought and practical guidance was offered. Thanks for including us in the event.” School Principal.

“Thank you so much for having us Miss!!! I now know that the IT field, especially web development, is something I can see myself pursuing in the future.”

“It’s an eye-opening experience in different ways that I can do stuff that I like to do and also make money off of it.”

#GirlsInSTEM 2 ~ DigiGirlz 2019

DigiGirlz 2019
As part of its continuing Women in STEM initiative, aimed at bridging the gender gap in the technology sector through awareness, and education, Soroptimist International Esperance was proud to partner with Microsoft to bring DigiGirlz 2019 to Trinidad.

On May 4th, 2019, fifteen excited girls drawn from Debe Secondary School, Parvati Girls Hindu College, ASJA Girls Barrackpore and Holy Faith Convent Couva journeyed to Microsoft Offices, Port of Spain to participate in DigiGirlz (TT) 2019.

The DigiGirlz!

Research shows only 1/4 persons in STEM are female, with women of colour in the minority. DigiGirlz was designed to encourage students to engage in discussions about the critical need for gender equality in today’s work force. We wanted them to understand the range of possibilities open to them and the determiniation needed to access them. Awareness & advocay are necessary to educate, change attitudes, to empower women and enable them to be full partners in all aspects of the work force.

This global event is designed to provide girls with a better understanding of what a career in the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) is all about.

And what a day it was!!

Minister of Community Development and the Arts, Dr. The Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly addresses the DigiGirlz and tells them “We need women to take their place at the table of leadership.”

The project  involved creating a partnership with Microsoft, allowing Trinidad to be a part of their global event. Secondary schools were invited to send female students in STEM to attend. Transportation was facilitated by the Club. The speakers provided by Microsoft included prominent women in STEM based careers, including a female government minister. The students were given an exit survey. The photographer was booked, media releases prepared & disseminated, including a YouTube of the Minister’s speech.

Lisette Maxime-Hernandez, Territory Channel Manager Caribbean Microsoft was the energetic chairperson for the day.
Racquel Moses, CEO Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator gave a thought-provoking presentation.
Vernisha Ayoung, IT Leader of Shell spoke on Women in IT Management.
Arianne Khadoo and Rachel Yeh Chong of Teleios Systems Ltd gave the DigiGirlz a taste of coding, and told the DigiGirlz, “Never limit yourself!”
Neela Racha of Software One West Indies challenged the girls with ‘The Sky is the Limit.’
It’s Showtime!!! – Ingrid Jahra, CEO of CinemaOne told the girls, “Dream, work hard, love it.”

Each speaker brought new and fresh perspectives to the emerging careers in the Technology Sector in the digital economy.  Ms. Moses from the Caribbean Climate Smart Accelerator noted that the Climate Change Economy was a twenty-six (26) trillion-dollar industry with the capability to produce sixty-five million (65m) low carbon jobs, which was waiting to be explored. The girls were encouraged to be focused, to broaden their vision to think beyond the traditional, to make wise choices and to live boldly and fearlessly.

‘Who Run the World? – Girls.’ The workshop was interactive and fun.

Representatives from Teleios Systems, a software development Company, showed interactively, how easy it was, with a few lines of code, to produce a coloured wallpaper background.  The Speakers made the information relevant to the girls by referencing experiences with which they were familiar e.g. Thanos, a character in the Marvel Avengers Series and the 3D experience at Digicel IMAX.

Chatting during the intermission. (L-R) Irmine McKenzie, Secretary of Soroptimist International Esperance; Lisette Maxine, Microsoft; Dr. The Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, Minister of Community Development and the Arts; Communications Officer Marilyn Lalla, Programme Action Officer Tara Pollonais and Chinara Griffith of Soroptimist International Esperance.

At the end of the session, Microsoft offered to create a DigiGirlzTT Whatsapp Group to provide continued support and resources to the girls.

The DigiGirlz of Soroptimist International Esperance.(L-R) Programme Action Officer Tara Pollonais, Communications Officer Marilyn Lalla, Member Chinara Griffith, Secretary Irmin Mckenzie.

The students met women who encouraged them think beyond traditional careers & think into the future (i.e. coding, climate change, software creation and entertainment technology. This “real time/live” interaction resulted in students seeing and hearing women who dared to be different, enter into male dominated careers & became successful. Awareness & advocacy were achieved through three newspaper articles, Facebook postings and the YouTube of the Minister’s speech which were widely disseminated.

Candid Photos 

Participants left asking how soon the next Microsoft DigiGirlz event would be held and thanking the Esperance Soroptimists for facilitating the experience. One of the girls remarked,

“Now I know I have a right to be, and am smart enough to be in the STEM workplace.”