Inspiring Young Women to Become Tomorrow’s Tech Leaders

Posted by Teresa Carlson 
Vice President, U.S. Federal Government Business

Despite society’s best efforts, there is a huge disparity in the number of men and women majoring in IT fields and pursuing technology-related careers. In 1982, about half of the students majoring in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) were women. Today, only 21 percent of STEM majors are women. Yet, women lead in the development of Web pages and content on sites such as Facebook, and have led some of the most successful tech companies. 

We need the contributions of both our brightest women and our brightest men in technical fields, which are so critical to economic growth. In an effort to help turn this situation around, Microsoft created a program called DigiGirlz in 2001, aimed at encouraging young women to consider technology careers – and to make math and science cool for young women – through fun activities that range from exploring robotics development to generating Web pages and  programming digital games.

On March 25, Microsoft hosted a one-day DigiGirlz program at our Reston, Va. office.  More than 80 local high school girls dove into a variety of technology projects and heard about IT opportunities, scholarships, internships and some of the education programs provided at Microsoft.

We held an equally successful DigiGirlz Day at our New York office on March 31.  Betsy Perry, New York City’s Commissioner for Women’s Issues appointed by Mayor Bloomberg, swung by and wrote anentertaining chronicle of her experience that nicely captures the spirit of the event.

Since 2000, Microsoft has reached 3,400 young women in more than 20 locations around the world through DigiGirlz, and we expect to reach an additional 3,400 young women in more than 40 locations in 2009.

With as many as 1 million new IT jobs expected to become available in the U.S. over the next five years, the importance of creating a pipeline of talented young women interested in IT careers is greater than ever. Equally important in this economic climate are the contributions that the next generation of DigiGirlz can make by applying their talents and diverse viewpoints to help companies and society innovate.

As the vice president of Microsoft’s U.S. federal government business, I know first-hand how important it is to find the best professionals throughout our society – regardless of gender.

And as a leader at Microsoft, and as a woman, I am proud that our company has programs to impress young women to consider careers that intersect IT and business.  With programs like DigiGirlz, we have an opportunity to recruit and groom the next generation of women – getting young girls excited about the role that technology plays in our future.

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