By: J.D. Ross
Today and tomorrow, the School of Information Studies (iSchool) is welcoming nearly 100 high school girls to Hinds Hall on the Syracuse University campus for the third annual It Girls retreat.
The overnight program, often referred to as a cross between a slumber party and a hackathon, is organized by iSchool undergraduate recruitment staff members Dori Farah and Julie Walas, and offers a way for high school girls to learn about technology education and careers via mentors and programming from the iSchool.
Attendees are coming from more than 45 high schools across the northeast, primarily from the New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia areas. Girls will be hosted overnight in residence hall rooms with current Syracuse University students.
“The United States needs to encourage more women to enter careers in technology,” says Farah. “According to the National Center for Women in Information Technology, although women earn 57 percent of all undergraduate degrees in the country, only 18 percent of all computer and information science degree recipients are female.”
Through the It Girls retreat and programming, the organizers hope the exposure to the technical fields and opportunities will ignite a spark of interest with the attendees.
“We set out to create an experience that we hope will inspire them to consider an education and career in technology,” said Walas.
If past feedback from the It Girls retreats in 2011 and 2012 is any indicator, many of this year’s participants are likely to find something at the iSchool that appeals to them. 85 percent of attendees from the first two events felt that the event greatly increased their awareness of women in technology. In 2012, 88 percent of the seniors who attended the retreat applied to Syracuse University, with 54% applying directly to the iSchool.
This year, the retreat is sponsored by a generous donation from JPMorgan Chase & Co. Additional support has been provided by Facebook, SendGrid, Splunk, BDO Consulting and SSSe Inc., who have all sent company representatives to serve as facilitators and mentors during portions of the retreat events.