Growing up as the daughter of two engineers, engineering was always a career option at the back of my mind. Despite this, I didn’t really understand exactly what engineers did on a day-to-day basis until I participated in a summer engineering program while in high school. It was the first time I got actual hands-on experience with all of the different aspects of engineering. I was hooked!
The program was specifically for high school girls, designed to get more women into the field. At the time, I wasn’t really aware that there was a large gender imbalance in engineering fields. In college, I was selected to be a teaching assistant for a similar program – a competitive position – and never really experienced first hand the impact of disproportionate representation. However, the full reality of the lack of women in engineering finally hit me as I was leaving school to enter the professional world for the first time. Out of my graduating class of about 50, there were only 6 women.
Being told, “you don’t look like an engineer” on a daily basis bothered me. But being one of just a handful of women bothered me even more. Why is it that – despite pursuing undergraduate education in equal numbers – so few women ultimately choose to pursue a life in engineering? More personally, why did I?
Then I remembered: the summer engineering program I took in high school. I was not only lucky enough to have hands-on experience in engineering workshops with other ambitious young women, but I was also mentored through this experience by strong young women already pursuing engineering in college. That’s when it dawned on me that I could provide the same mentorship and guidance to other young women, and by doing so teach them that engineering is a viable option for their futures. ChickTech Boston was born.
ChickTech is a national nonprofit, the mission of which is to build confidence in young women to pursue careers in STEM by providing them with early and consistent mentorship. By starting the Boston chapter of ChickTech, I now have the chance to mentor girls and young women, and by doing so, build a community that empowers them to find a home in STEM. Fortunately, I’ve found large community of like-minded people here in Boston who are volunteering their time and expertise to help make this chapter a reality. ChickTech has two distinct programs that have already been widely successful in other chapters around the country. These are:
ChickTech: High School
We start by asking teachers and counselors to nominate female students who show an aptitude in technology but may not have the opportunity to learn. We request that at least one-third of the nominees be eligible for the free lunch program. This recruitment strategy gives potential participants an immediate boost of confidence and a sense of recognition. It also yields a very diverse group of girls.
ChickTech: High School kicks-off with two days of hands-on activities and workshops. It concludes with a technology showcase in which 100 girls share what they’ve created with the community.
ChickTech: High School keeps girls engaged throughout the year with a series of follow-up workshops, extending the learning process to include:
- One-on-one mentoring for a year with a technology professional
- Internship opportunities at local tech companies
- Tech-focused scholarship, career and resume workshops
ChickTech: Career is a series of woman-focused continued education events held throughout the year. These events build attendees’ technology and professional expertise and create a supportive community among adult women.
I couldn’t be more excited about starting the Boston chapter of ChickTech. I think the combination of hands-on workshops and dedicated mentors has a lot of potential to empower inner city high school girls. As well meaning as our goals might seem, it’s not without its difficulty. Providing ongoing workshops is expensive, and part of our mission is to provide them at no cost to our girls. As such, we are currently looking to raise $15,000 to build a strong and sustainable high school program and provide continuing workshops throughout the year. Our most pressing need is to raise enough money to kick off ChickTech: High School by next fall. If you can donate any amount, please do so by visiting our web site. You can also sign up for our mailing list so you can stay up-to-date on future events and fundraisers.
Pattaya Hongsmatip is a network design engineer at AT&T, program manager for Chicktech Boston, and InstaGrandma for CreativeMornings Boston. She received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Boston University. With donuts in her belly and coffee running through her veins, she’s ready to tackle her next project.