Lauren Metter

Meet Lauren

Recap — #DigiGirlzRI Inspires High School Girls to Pursue Tech Careers

On Friday, March 17, hundreds of high school girls from Rhode Island gathered at the New England Institute of Technology for a day of all things tech. From media production workshops to 3D Paint tutorials from the Microsoft Store to inspiring speeches by Governor Gina Raimondo, it’s safe to say the event sparked the beginning of several computer science careers.

“Girls and women are half of the world’s population,” Raimondo said to a room packed with DigiGirlz. “They are half of the world’s brains, problem-solvers, leaders. This world cannot solve problems unless they are at the table. That’s why I started programs like CS4RI, partnering with Microsoft and other leaders to offer computer science in every Rhode Island school.”

Backed by Microsoft New England, Computer Science for Rhode Island (CS4RI) is one of the strongest statewide computer science initiatives in the country. Their goal is to have CS taught in every Rhode Island public school by December 2017.

“Digital skills are an increasingly necessary component of success in the workforce—and that applies to women as much as it does to men,” Raimondo said. “Being surrounded by so many young women with such potential at DigiGirlz filled me with optimism, pride and excitement for Rhode Island’s future.”

The fervor from the young women was palpable that day, and behind doors with signs that read “DigiGirlz: No Boys Allowed,” eyes were wide with curiosity. Microsoft Store staff had the girls bringing their imagination to life with 3D Paint, a new program that will be publicly available soon. Meghan Martinez, LTC Alyce Pagliarini and Julie Rinehart led a cybersecurity session, giving the girls valuable advice on how to stay safe online. The five other sessions involved digital media, mechanical engineering, Adobe Photoshop, Unity Program, and Multimedia Web Design.

After lunch, the girls learned about how they could #MakeWhatsNext and brand themselves online with Boston-based social media agency Metter Media. The social media session ended with a slew of giveaways, including the grand prize: a Microsoft Surface. The #DigiGirlzRI hashtag went wild all day long as the girls entered the contests by taking selfies and sharing their #MakeWhatsNext stories.

“The mission of DigiGirlz to provide middle and high school girls an opportunity to explore careers in technology is very important. As a society, we need to break the mold that STEM jobs are ‘jobs for boys’,” said Dr. Douglas H. Sherman, Senior Vice President and Provost at the New England Institute of Technology. “With the U.S. population being more than 50% female, we need more girls to study technology and to prepare themselves for the many high tech jobs that are or will become available as the baby boomers begin to retire.”

Our next DigiGirlz Day will be in Burlington, MA at our new Sales & Technology Center on Friday, April 28. View more photos from the event below!

The Future [Of Computer Science] Is Female — A DigiGirlz Story

When 17-year-old Ameena Sajjad walked into Microsoft New England for DigiGirlz Day 2016, she was all set to be a dentist. She had already received a 75% paid tuition scholarship at a major college in Boston to do so, in fact.

When she walked out, she wanted to major in computer science. Now, she’s in a 2-year computer science program at Bunker Hill Community College, and is currently interning at Microsoft New England. She wants to pursue a career in software development.

So what happened at DigiGirlz that took her from wanting to be a dentist to working at Microsoft in one year?

“I came to know about wonderful innovations that were developed at the Microsoft Garage, the speakers at the event gave information about advances in technology, 3D printing, and more,” Ameena told MSNE. “They also highlighted the lack of interest among women in the field of computer science and how women can contribute to the field. I was fascinated by the entire office setup at Microsoft, the work culture, and the teamwork among the groups who organized the event.”

The stats about women in computer science are very real. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, women currently hold less than 25 percent of STEM jobs. And, globally, only 16 percent of female students graduate from STEM subjects, according to the World Economic Forum. We at Microsoft believe that this has to change.

DigiGirlz is one of our free #YouthSpark programs for middle and high school girls that allows them to immerse themselves in the world of technology for one day, in hopes that we can inspire the next generations of female Computer Scientists. They hear first-hand from women with careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops during the day-long event.

This year, Ameena is leading her own workshop at DigiGirlz in Burlington, where she’ll show them the BBC micro:bit, a tool she helped develop at her internship. She’ll show the DigiGirlz how to use the micro:bit to code all sorts of cool creations, from robots to musical instruments.

“I want to make them more curious and give them more technology — show them what it’s like,” Ameena said.

She’ll never forget that drive home from DigiGirlz, and how nervous she felt to tell her parents she wanted to turn down a huge scholarship to be a computer science major.

“Eventually after coming home [from DigiGirlz], I gathered all the courage I had and told my parents that I wanted to change majors to computer science. My parents were quiet at first, but then started to discuss possible options,” she explained. “This is my second semester and I am going strong with each day that passes. I am loving my C++ and Java classes. I don’t know if it is my luck or just a coincidence that I was selected for an internship position at Microsoft New England.”

“I will always be thankful to DigiGirlz, who arranged the Microsoft visit and gave me the option to explore a computer science major.”

We’re excited to welcome more middle and high school girls to DigiGirlz at Microsoft New England this year. Our first day is in Rhode Island at the campus of the New England Institute of Technology on Friday, March 17, and our second session is in Burlington, MA at our new Sales & Technology Center on Friday, April 28.

There will also be free DigiGirlz events at all of our retail store locations throughout New England. Find a free event near you.

Head here to learn more about Microsoft YouthSpark’s DigiGirlz programs.