Engaging Women & Underrepresented Minorities in STEM & Computer Science

| Aimee Sprung

MA STEM Summit

My children are 7 & 10 and currently very into sports – mostly soccer, a little basketball and my husband is working hard to introduce golf too. But in between school, sports and other activities that keep them busy I am always trying to insert some STEM or computer science activities. They are great users of technology, but I want to inspire them to be creators of technology.

In Massachusetts, we are already experiencing a talent crisis. Today, we don’t have enough people to fill all the jobs that require tech skills in the Boston area. It isn’t just jobs at Microsoft and Facebook, it’s jobs that require coding and data skills for the City, the Universities and all the small businesses and startups in the area.

Based on the unfortunate data points stating the very low numbers of women and underrepresented minorities (URM) working at tech companies, we can assume that the current model to encourage students to pursue education and careers in stem works for white men, but that leaves a large portion of the population, including women and URM, who could fill the open jobs. Imagine if Massachusetts could take greater advantage of the entire potential workforce. Focusing just on Boston based 18-30 year olds, if we assume 50% of the population is women and 20% are minority populations (ex. Hispanic, African American), it introduces a large new population of professionals to the talent pool.

This is not an easy challenge to address, so I applaud the people and organizations thinking creatively about how to reach girls and URM populations in Boston. On November 10, I’ll be moderating a panel at the Massachusetts STEM Summit http://mass-stem-summit.org/ featuring people already working in this space to think about how we can begin to provide equitable access to STEM education. The panel will include:

Milton Irving is the Executive Director of the Timothy Smith Network http://timothysmithnetwork.org. TSN aims to increase the capacity of the Greater Roxbury community of Boston to effectively use and access technology by providing technology-related services, educational programs and resources as well as strengthening and supporting the individual Timothy Smith Centers. As of 2015 there are 29 active Timothy Smith Centers. Timothy Smith Centers provide comprehensive community-based technology education services to children, adults, families, adults, and senior citizens.

David Delmar is the Executive Director and Founder of Resilient Coders http://resilientcoders.org/

Resilient Coders teaches young people from traditionally underserved communities how to code. We do this as a way of aligning them with a lucrative and meaningful career path. It’s a multi-tiered program that funnels students from learning HTML after school, through our downtown “Coworking” sessions, and ultimately, hourly employment. Our higher performers participate in Resilient Lab, a web design and development shop with real clients.

Lonsdale Koester is the Executive Director of Science Club for Girls http://www.scienceclubforgirls.org/.

SCFG fosters excitement, confidence and literacy in STEM for girls from underrepresented communities by providing free, experiential programs and by maximizing meaningful interactions with women mentors in science, technology, engineering & mathematics.

I hope to see you at the STEM Summit! In the meantime, please comment on this post or tweet @asprung with any questions you would like me to ask the panel. I’m looking forward to the discussion and creating an ongoing dialogue about this topic.


Full session description:

Growing the STEM Workforce: Engaging Women & Underrepresented Minorities in Computer Science

CS is one of the most rewarding and challenging undergraduate degrees a college student can earn, yet only 0.7% of college students graduate from American colleges with a CS degree each year when the technology industry demand is so high. Recent statistics about the low number of women and underrepresented minority employees in many of the large technology companies further stress the opportunity to build a diverse workforce by introducing a more diverse set of students to computer science.

In this panel, hear from community leaders about programs in Massachusetts that are exploring ways to engage young women and a more diverse set of students to learn to code.

Proposed speakers:

  • Milton Irving – Timothy Smith Network
  • David Delmar – Resilient Coders
  • Lonsdale Koester – Science Club for Girls
  • Moderator: Aimee Sprung – Microsoft


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Aimee Sprung

To keep up with Aimee you need to be up early. Like 5 AM early. Then you have to squeeze in Crossfit, grow STEM education programs, collaborate with community leaders and still keep up with her family - 2 boys require high energy. Or you can hit the snooze and sleep soundly knowing Aimee has that all covered.