By: Diane Stirling
JP Morgan Chase & Co. has provided a $15,000 sponsorship for this year’s It Girls Overnight Retreat, an event created by the School of Information Studies (iSchool) to engage, inspire, and celebrate high school women and their potential in technology.
This fall marks the third annual It Girls Overnight Retreat, which has attracted 150 junior and senior high school girls from 32 high schools and seven states to the iSchool for a two-day event akin to a “slumber party meets hack-a-thon” weekend.
According to Joan McGovern, of JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s Community Engagement initiative in the Office of the Chief Information Officer, the company was motivated to sponsor The It Girls Overnight Retreat because the program aligns with the firm’s community engagement objective to recruit, retain, and advance women in the STEM fields. JPMC’s Technology-University Collaborations Community Engagement program was started in 2012 to encourage underrepresented/female students to pursue STEM curriculum, McGovern said.
“After having conversations with the Syracuse University School of Information Studies, with whom JPMC has a collaborative agreement, The It Girls Overnight Retreat was identified as an initiative that would provide deep community impact,” she added. “The sustainability and growth of the initiative is also an attractive feature, as we consider these students a talent source for our technology positions,” according to McGovern.
Julie Walas Hyunh, undergraduate programs manager for the iSchool, and co-creator of the event with Dori Farah, recruiting specialist at the iSchool, said the program was developed to “create an experience that we hope will inspire young women to consider an education and career in technology. Our country is experiencing a deficit of female talent and interest in the STEM disciplines and the It Girls Overnight Retreat is proving to be a positive response to that problem.”
Of the 150 program participants thus far, 114 have graduated high school and have had a chance to apply to college, according to Farah. She said that of those 114 women, 80% chose to apply to Syracuse University, and almost half of that number applied to pursue a degree program in the iSchool. Altogether, the iSchool has welcomed 26 “It Girls” as matriculated students to date, she added.
As an innovative women-in-tech initiative, the It Girls program is in good company. JPMorgan Chase also has sponsored two other Syracuse University programs: “Women Lead” and “Aspirations in Computing,” both designed to attract high school women into tech curriculums, as well as similar events at two other colleges.