For the first time, STEM Symposium for G.I.R.L.S. is being held at The University of Texas at Dallas. This two-day event, on April 7-8, gives females in seventh, eighth and ninth grade an opportunity to learn about the exploding field of information technology, from women in the field. The conference is being underwritten by High-Tech High Heels, which aims to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math.
Research shows that as young as age 6, girls start believing they aren't as smart as their male peers. And in early elementary school, they are less likely than boys to say that their own gender is "really, really smart," and less likely to opt in to a game described as being for super-smart kids.
"Women in STEM begin as girls in STEM," says Dawn Owens, PhD, director of the BS/Information Technology and Systems program at UT Dallas. "When I was in college I originally thought I was interested in accounting because I liked solving problems and working with numbers. I was also very interested in using computers to support business. ... A very wise adviser introduced me to the field of information systems and technology -- a technical degree in the business school."
The STEM symposium covers what IT professionals do and includes hands-on opportunities in UT Dallas computer labs. Meals and supplies are included in the $60 fee. Scholarships are available.
According to a 2016 U.S. Census Bureau report, the percentage of women in information technology careers in the U.S. has actually declined from a peak of about 31 percent in 1990. Now, about 25 percent of IT professionals are female and their earnings statistically lag behind men's earnings regardless of what IT area they are in.
"I have long desired to educate young women and encourage them to do what they are passionate about and not let stereotypes affect their decisions," Owens says. "I want them to feel confident in their abilities and that they can do whatever they set their mind to."