SheTech: Building Utah's Talent Pipeline
By Ava Tullis
SheTech activates, engages, and inspires high school girls to pursue STEM careers by giving them hands-on experience and one-on-one mentoring. At SheTech Explorer Day, thousands of high school girls across the state join hundreds of industry mentors from dozens of leading tech companies to try STEM careers firsthand with the experts who work in these jobs. For most of these girls, as it was for me, it is their first real exposure to the tech community in a meaningful way.
I was a high school sophomore when I was first introduced to the SheTech program. At the time, my school counselors asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, as counselors do. My mind would always come up blank. I felt like I was coasting through my teenage years without any particular purpose in mind. My first Explorer Day changed that. A light inside me suddenly turned on. Passion inside me that I didn’t know existed was ignited. I still didn’t know what I wanted to do exactly, but I knew that I wanted to make a difference in this world, and I wanted to do that through STEM.
Before my first Explorer Day STEM careers seemed to me to be somewhat vague, highly complex, and difficult endeavors attainable to only the smartest of the smart. After my first Explorer Day, I realized how wrong I was. I learned that anyone can go into STEM, and that I could go into STEM.
Meeting experienced adult mentors from the tech community and talking to peers my age who had already been involved with SheTech and were very interested in STEM inspired me to rethink my position on STEM. Explorer Day opened my eyes to a world of STEM possibilities available to anyone who is willing to work hard. Having a sense of what is possible was a game-changer for me.
After that first Explorer Day, SheTech has become one of my strongest passions and areas of focus. I immediately became a very involved SheTech ambassador for my school, attended meetings, put up posters of SheTech events, invited friends to Explorer Day, and even had the amazing opportunity to share my experiences with SheTech and Women Tech Council leaders at the State Capitol to Utah lawmakers, including Rep. Jefferson Moss of the 2nd district, who were considering legislation to support STEM.
I have had the pleasure to share my love of SheTech to over 60 girls in my school who will join me in attending this year's Explorer Day on Tuesday, February 28, at Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy. I helped convince these 60+ schoolmates to attend Explorer Day because I want them to have a similar experience that I had. We will join over 3,000 high school girls across the state in a full day of stimulating STEM workshops in fields like robotics, diamond cutting, aerospace, aviation, biomedicine, marine biology, coding, and much more. And we will hear from hundreds of inspirational mentors from leading technology companies. When I went to Explorer Day last year I even met Governor Cox and learned about his commitment to girls in STEM.
At Explorer Day it was refreshing to talk to tech workers from many dozen local tech companies and to see how they are supporting STEM education and the SheTech movement. I remember thinking, “wow, these companies actually want ME to work for them!” This experience was very positive and it solidified my decision to go into STEM. I realized this is not just another routine semester-long program offered by my school, but rather, SheTech is a Program for Life. I learned firsthand that there are a lot of meaningful jobs out there for girls who develop an interest in and become accomplished in STEM. This point became clear to me as I walked the exhibit hall of Explorer Day with my friends and having dozens of conversations with Utah tech companies.
I am now currently taking an Intro to Programming online course in preparation for a more extensive, year-long course I will be taking at Mountainland Technical College (MTECH) during my senior year of high school. It will focus on Web Development and Programming. While I don't know if I will ultimately pursue a career in programming or web development, I do know that I want a career in a tech field. I know that through this course, and other coding courses like it, I will gain valuable knowledge and skills about a big aspect of technology—coding.
Looking back a year or two ago, I would have never considered taking such a course. It would have never occurred to me. However, Explorer Day was a powerful and transformative experience. It showed me a glimpse of what my future could be. I want my friends and peers in school to experience it as well. I see them as so brilliant, talented, and full of promise. I believe our state needs these girls!
SheTech surveys indicate that 95% of girls say they do not know a woman in STEM or believe STEM is for them. However, after participating in SheTech, 90% of girls say they are now planning on pursuing a career in STEM. That's a powerful statistic. So far, 30,000 girls have been activated to pursue STEM because of SheTech. I now count myself as one of them.
I believe every high school girl should explore SheTech and attend Explorer Day to find out if they too can envision a possible future in tech for themselves and to ignite their passion to go for it.
This year's Explorer Day will take place on February 28, from 9:00am to 1:15pm, at the Mountain America Expo Center in Sandy.
For more information visit www.shetechexplorer.com