Sunday morning, a swarm of orange and pink descends on the iSchool. The 2015 Class of It Girls has arrived! Their parents, who accompany many of them on the trip, haul overnight bags as excited girls Snapchat and Tweet their arrival. Buses unload more than 120 high school girls. The iSchool is shut down from its regular activity, and the It Girls take over.

Orange and pink welcome in Hinds Hall for It Girls

Slumber Party + Hackathon

The It Girls Overnight Retreat is held once a year for invited high school junior and senior girls. This “slumber party meets hackathon” event is important because it introduces them to the iSchool, to Syracuse University, and to the idea of technology as a major. In this two-day event, the girls get to experience a mock class in the iSchool; they attend several workshops; and they compete in a late-night IT challenge. Through the retreat, the girls meet current students, iSchool faculty, and iSchool advisors, as well as corporate women working in technology.

it girls on setage

Corporate Sponsors

This year, the event’s corporate sponsors were JP Morgan Chase, Time Warner Cable, and EY.

These companies understand that successful recruiting doesn’t begin at job fairs in college, but rather much earlier. In order to hire good female candidates, they believe they must increase the pool of young women who want to study and work in tech.

As part of their experience, the girls are tasked by corporate sponsors with devising ways that technology can solve problems. The girls tackle those issues during the Late Night Challenge.

it girls diversity

It Girls experience iSchool computer labs over their weekend retreat

Improving the Numbers

Inspiring girls in technology is important because women only make up only 26% of workers holding technology jobs. Google announced that the percentage of women in their company is 30%, and they are now spending millions creating programs like Girls Who Code.

So why don’t more girls want to study and work in technology? I believe there are a few reasons. The first is that there are few role models. If you Google-Image “successful women in technology,” all that appears are stock photos of business women. If you do the same Google search but replace the search term with “men,” the faces that show up are easily recognizable — Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg.In popular culture, where are the movies about Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, or Grace Hopper?

I believe that many girls unfortunately avoid technology fields because of stereotypes and video games targeted towards boys. The push for STEM started with a narrow focus on strictly math and science. Girls who disliked either subject gave up anything related as a career, many as early as middle school.

Last but not least is blatant sexism. In any field or activity that is male-dominated, there are comments made that make girls feel like they don’t fit in. Most of the time, these are jokes, but typically still sexist and demeaning all the same. My favorite example of this is in the popular TV show, Silicon Valley. In an episode called, “The Lady,” the main tech company focuses on hiring new programmers. They interview a brilliant female and say that she is “good for a woman engineer.” She says, “I’m not a woman engineer, I’m an engineer.”

Quote from the Silicon Valley show episode, “The Lady.” (Source:

Changing Stereotypes

The It Girls retreat works to change these stereotypes by showing girls that there are other girls interested in technology and there are jobs out there for us. This event takes away the boy’s club stigma associated with IT and replaces it by inspiring and celebrating girls’ potential in technology.

Through women in corporate technology that attend and present, girls are faced with role models to look up to and to show it is possible to be successful in technology. The girls sit in a mock class in IT for the experience, so they can picture themselves going to the iSchool and taking technology classes.

It Girls '15 tackle challenges in teams

It Girls ’15 tackle challenges in teams

What the It Girls Say

Several 2015 It Girls attendees reflected on their experience:

“It’s important for girls to be interested in technology because there is such a huge gender gap in this field and society discourages girls at a young age to not go into a stem programs, but we are changing that one step at a time. It Girls can be amazing in the field of technology if we believe that in any field dominated by men, women can do it a thousand times better. I encourage not just girls, but everyone to explore your technical side because you could learn a lot about yourself. I couldn’t be more enlightened by the exciting field of technology.” – Jessica Jiang (Brooklyn, NY)

—————————————————————–It girls trio

“If I never participated in the IT Girls retreat, I would have never known or realized that technology is my passion. IT Girls has shaped my college career and I hope that more women are able to go through the amazing experience that I was fortunate to have had.” -Amy Fink (Senior, iSchool)


“I was fortunate to have the opportunity to network especially with intelligent and successful women in the workforce, and make impactful social and professional relationships. The It Girls retreat also helped me realize that IT could be combined with various fields of study. I would highly recommend the It Girls Retreat to others!” -Lissa NGom (Bronx, NY)


Sidney (from a Tweet): “Why can’t you do coding and be homecoming queen?” That’s why #ItGirlsROCK!! ❤️

— IT Girls Alumnae (@ITGirls4SU) October 12, 2015

What do you think about this way of introducing girls to the technology and information fields? Respond here – we’d love to hear your comments!