Those of you who've heard about Ada Lovelace, know that girls have been hacking for a very long time. Problem is the world doesn't really know that, nor, unfortunately do a lot of young women.
The same can be said for most STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professions, women are underrepresented, drastically so when it comes to ethnic minorities. We all have such deeply ingrained ideas about what each gender is capable of that even women will downgrade an applicant with a female name and offer them a lower salary than an identical male candidate.
Gender stereotyping begins young, by the time girls have reached high school, many of them already don't identify with the skills most people would assume you require for a STEM careers. Math, computing, logic, are all perceived as "male" skills. Yet the skills often deemed as "female," such as communication and creativity are equally vital to succeed in STEM. None of these skills are entirely innate to one gender, they can be learned, nurtured and strengthened.
Girls Do Hack, being held on the 9th of November 2013, will challenge 48 young women from Chicago Public Schools to question their understanding of what skills they have and what skills a STEM professional requires. This will happen during an action packed day of doing everything from mobile phone hacking to exo-planet detection. They will do this in collaboration with a collection of women STEM professionals who have volunteered to mentor for the day.
We are fortunate that we live in a time in history when a host of trailblazing women have begun to clear the path to STEM career's for women. So when we put out a call for mentors to participate in an all female event, we were overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm we received. Women STEM professionals know that it's a challenging, rewarding path and many of them have a tale to tell about the family member, teacher, or friend who provided them with the confidence and inspiration to go forward into STEM. The opportunity to provide that inspiration for the next generation, was a compelling one and we are sure that the generosity they have shown in volunteering will be well received. We also hope they'll have a blast!
In the meantime if you happen to know a young women who is considering her future career, perhaps you can tell her that no matter how much of a boys club the tech industry appears to be at times, a girl invented programming and if she could do that when women didn’t even have the vote, there’s hope for us all.
Written by Dr. Laura Whyte, director of Citizen Science at the Adler Planetarium.