DATE: September 18, 2017
CONTACT: Phil Giaramita, Public Affairs and Strategic Communications Officer
PHONE: 434-972-4049

Programs, Workshops This Saturday for Young Girls in Grades K-12 Will Focus on Closing the Gender Gap in Technology

(ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Virginia) – Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology, reports that 74 percent of young girls express interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields such as computer science. Yet only 26 percent of computing jobs and just five percent of all leadership positions in technology are held by women.

This gap was the subject of a documentary film, She Started It, which was screened last November at the Virginia Film Festival. Earlier that day, filmmaker Nora Poggi participated in a panel discussion at Monticello High School with female students from schools throughout the county.

It also is leading to an event this Saturday, September 23, that will bring more than 200 female students from Albemarle County, Charlottesville City, and local private schools to Albemarle High School for an ESTEAM (Entrepreneurship, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) conference.

The She Started It ESTEAM Summit is for female elementary, middle, and high school students and was inspired by the stories in the documentary film that featured successful women at technology start-up companies. Participants this Saturday will be able to see the documentary, hear from panelists, and join workshops and entrepreneurship and engineering activities.

“This is a unique opportunity for female students to engage in career exploration, including networking with local female mentors in the fields of entrepreneurship, science, technology, engineering, art, and math,” said Alexis Mason, a conference organizer and Albemarle High School gifted resource teacher.

The summit will be held at Albemarle High School, with programs for students in grades K-5 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon, and for students in grades 6-12 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. There is no charge for participation.

"We want girls to know that they can pursue their interests and have the resources and support from our local community to blaze new trails,” Mason said. “We want to bring girls of all ages together with their parents, local businesswomen, and other community partners who are interested in addressing gender barriers and being a part of the solution in empowering girls to see themselves in any career they choose,” she added.

Zoe Padron, the gifted resource teacher at Western Albemarle High School and also a summit organizer, said connections with the business community are a key goal of the event, since that’s where many of the future opportunities will be for today’s students.

"We are deeply appreciative of our sponsors, roles models, and volunteers who have been so generous with their time and resources. It’s our hope that by bringing together women and girls with a shared passion, we can create a network of support for students,” Padron said.

Among those leading sessions will be Kirsten Fuoti, who teaches in Albemarle High School’s Math, Engineering & Science Academy (MESA), and Gabrielle Schoppa, a Burley Middle School engineering teacher who was a major contributor to Investing in Innovation, a federal grant program that included Albemarle County, Charlottesville City, and Fluvanna County school divisions. Terry Graff, a Cale Elementary School teacher and a leader of Girls Geek Day programming, will lead a session as well. Also assisting will be Becky Fisher, a leader of Albemarle County’s learning resources technology program.

Additionally, several young women from Albemarle County high schools and academy programs (which include MESA, the Health and Medical Sciences Academy, and the Environmental Studies Academy) will be facilitating sessions and volunteering throughout the day.

While the summit currently has a registration waitlist, organizers have added a She Started It screening-only option for those who would like to view the documentary and participate in the panel discussion with Ms. Poggi and community leaders. This screening will take place from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Those interested may register online at esteam4girls.weebly.com.

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