By: Diane Stirling
School of Information Studies (iSchool) alumna Megan Threats G'13, attended the Forbes Under 30 Summit and the Technical.ly Rise Conference last week, venues where she promoted the new non-profit organization she has founded, DigITal Girls.
Threats, a graduate of the iSchool’s Library and Information Science masters program, had her conference participation underwritten by Technical.ly, a group that coalesces people who are improving their communities through the use of open data, web-based learning, and tech-fueled efficiency.
|Megan Threats G'13|
DigITal Girls Inc. is designed to increase the involvement and success of girls and women in the information technology field. The organization is based on Megan’s decision to formalize and expand the kind of help she has informally extended to friends, family members, and fellow students in recent years, plus expand her desire to help girls and women enter the IT field. “There are not a lot of girls in IT science or computer science,” Megan observed. “We’re just not there. The face of technology is changing, and I hope when people hear the word technology or computer science, or techie, that different faces come to mind and there’s a place where women can exist in technology,” she said.
Acknowledging that there are “a lot of other good programs that help teach girls tech skills,” Megan said she wanted to develop a program that measured people getting into programs, and DigITal Girls “is the next step. What do you do after you have those skills? This gives one-to-one help to get into an [academic] program.”
While she teaches literacy and tech skills in her full-time role as a public services and reference librarian for Philadelphia Fight, Megan also wants to help participants apply to college, write entrance essays, find scholarships, prepare resumes, and obtain career advice. She has recruited mentors for the organization’s board of directors and its “brain trust” to assist. They include iSchool alumna and Megan’s cohort member Jessica Santana, from New York (who has co-created non-profit Brooklyn On Tech to mentor teens in technology); and current LIS student Olivia Mitchell, whose background is in entrepreneurship and engineering. Both have been “instrumental to helping create the organization,” Megan said. She also works with alumnus Gervis Menzies, ’12, partnership development manager at Evernote, for student career and networking advice.
Megan certainly also draws from her own experiences. As a high school senior, she earned a Gates Millenium Scholarship, an award covering the full cost for up to 10 years of college education. Through that and her Association of Resource Libraries Initiative for a diverse workforce scholarship, she has obtained two undergraduate degrees and her LIS master’s degree, and can pursue a doctoral degree in the future, she said.
The organization is shaped by those experiences as well as Megan’s time at the iSchool. The School’s ability to connect people to technology, making it useful in their everyday lives, is one of the principle reasons she selected Syracuse for her LIS degree, Megan noted. The School also showed that it “understood the social aspects as to how people can improve their lives through technology,” she said. Consequently, DigITal Girls hopes to recognize “a culture shift in the field of technology that welcomes and values women as industry leaders…and close the technology gender gap by increasing the number of women and girls that obtain a degree and career in IT-related fields,” its website says.
DigITal Girls is open to all women and girls. Megan said she particularly hopes to reach individuals who may be overlooked for IT-related fields, adding, “I want to give everybody the keys to their success.” The initial goal is to secure academic enrollment and careers for 100 girls and women by 2020. The first class of 10 – 20 participants launches in January, and participation can be accomplished virtually.