Whether it’s breaking down gender stereotypes, opening up potential career paths, or simply offering new and unique experiences, today’s young women deserve all the encouragement they can get—especially when it comes to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
Our latest FutureTalk in Portland, Ore., proved this point emphatically. The event showcased a range of organizations working hard to support young women. It also featured a group of amazing young women who shared their own stories of empowerment, ambition, and inspiration.
The evening began with a series of flash talks given by representatives of App Camp for Girls, ChickTech, Rock and Roll Camp for Girls, and Skate Like a Girl PDX. Also represented was Girls Inc., and it was their experiences in Girls Inc.’s Eureka! program that three young women took to the stage to discuss, in a fireside chat led by New Relic’s Senior Director of Technical Support Anne Buckley.
Founded back in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, today Girls, Inc., continues to focus on “the development of the whole girl.” Often partnering with schools, the organization offers a pro-girl environment complete with mentoring opportunities and research-based programming. The goal? To equip girls to “navigate gender, economic, and social barriers, and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.”
To that end, Girls Inc.’s Eureka! program seeks to challenge gender stereotypes by encouraging girls to confront messages that discourage them from actively participating in STEM and sports.
Amaya Gustave, a junior at Portland’s Franklin High School, has been involved with Girls Inc. since elementary school. She credits the Eureka! program with putting veterinary science on her radar, and giving her the confidence to pursue that as a future career. “I can see myself in a position in a STEM field, which I didn’t use to imagine,” she said.
Sixteen-year-old Mara Mitchell shared fond memories of an internship with the Northwest Youth Corps, which formed part of her third-year Eureka! camp. The outdoor work was grueling at times, but she enjoyed learning to use power tools. “We experienced something we would never had done on our own,” she said. “I’m really appreciative of it, even if some parts of it were really hard.” Mara also expressed gratitude for the open, accepting, and inspirational environment that Girls Inc. fosters.
Danica Milos-Manthey, an eighth grader at West Sylvan Middle School, shared Mara’s enthusiasm. Deeply interested in cars, Danica loved the Eureka! field trip to an automobile dealership. “Through Girls Inc. I learned I love engineering and building stuff,” she said, adding that the program has inspired her to pursue a career in auto-mechanical engineering.
All three girls agreed that programs like Eureka! do a lot of good, and should be more prevalent. “It’s given me so many opportunities and showed me I can do anything I put my mind to,” Mara said. To ensure all girls and young women feel equally empowered to pursue STEM, Danica added, “We should create an environment where young women feel more comfortable choosing that kind of career.”
Fight for the world, not against yourself
Empowering and encouraging young women is what Jolie Brownell, the final speaker of the evening, is all about. Jolie, who recently turned 18, shared her own moving story, describing the hard times she suffered at the hands of bullies, and the low self-esteem that resulted.
As Jolie worked to restore her faith in herself, and to shake off the stereotypes that society had forced on her, she realized that girls all over the world were suffering in similar ways. She wanted to ask them, “How can you go out and fight for the world if you are too busy going against yourself?”
After writing guest blogs for various websites, Jolie decided to dedicate her gap year to publishing and promoting her own book—Me Too. Jolie’s book is all about body acceptance, confidence, goal-setting, and healthy relationships.
“Girls cannot achieve the impossible until they believe they are capable of achieving it,” she said. “I hope that, with my book, I can be an extra positive message for other girls.”
Hear more from all of these amazing young women by watching the full FutureTalk presentation in the video below:
Don’t miss our next FutureTalk
For more information about our FutureTalks series, make sure to join our Meetup group, New Relic FutureTalks PDX, and follow us on Twitter @newrelic for the latest developments and updates on upcoming events.
Note: Event dates, participants, and topics are subject to change without notice.