“Women make up half of the total U.S. college-educated workforce, but only 29% of the science and engineering workforce… (compared to men in the field) there are relatively low shares in engineering (15%) and computer and mathematical sciences (25%).”- National Girls Collaborative Project

The lack of female representation in the IT industry and STEM Fields is disheartening. The iSchool saw this as an opportunity, to make a change for the better. They decided to find a way to empower young women to pursue more careers in the STEM fields.

Fortunately in 2011, the It Girls Overnight Retreat was created! From meeting new young women, to coding challenges, to hearing other women speak about the importance of females in the STEM field, the It Girls Retreat creates a new path for young girls that might have not been exposed to them before.

Why should you care about programs like It Girls?

“Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences (NSF, Science & Engineering Indicators, 2016).”

    • 35.2% of chemists are women
    • 11.1% of physicists and astronomers are women
    • 33.8% of environmental engineers are women
    • 22.7% of chemical engineers are women
    • 17.5% of civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers are women
    • 17.1% of industrial engineers are women
    • 10.7% of electrical or computer hardware engineers are women
    • 7.9% of mechanical engineers are women

Statistics: https://ngcproject.org/statistics

With these underwhelming statistics, along with the lack of representation of women in these fields, these factors do not help build an attainable environment for women to become a viable player in these career paths.

“Studies have found that middle school is when girls are most likely to become disinterested in the STEM subjects because they don’t think they fit what society deems the typical STEM student. Programs such as Girls Who Code, as well as the It Girls Retreat right here at the iSchool, show girls that they are just as able to succeed in these fields as anyone else.” –Megan Swanson, It Girls Alumna

In the iSchool, the girls from the It Girls Retreat can choose to pursue their college career with Syracuse University. It Girls Alumnae continue that path of creating success for girls in the STEM field, and volunteer with It girls for their annual retreat. 

“There is a big gender gap in the STEM field due to the history of women not being in the work field and other factors. The STEM field has a big connotation that the only people who are qualified to be in this field are ‘smart’ individuals, people feel discouraged to participate in them. The STEM field provides a wonderful opportunity for anyone. Why can’t women be in it as well?“- Rosaly Salcedo, President of It Girls Alumnae

It Girls is just one of the amazing groups that encourage women in technology we have here at the iSchool. We also have WIT (Women in Technology) Graduate and Undergraduate organizations. We asked them why they believe Women in Tech is important to represent.

“STEM fields are some of the fastest growing fields with so many opportunities. Women deserve a chance at these opportunities. Working in STEM means that you’re innovative, you’re creative, you’re passionate, you’re clever, you’re whoever you want to be. Women belong in STEM fields, and STEM fields need women.”- Liz Griffin, President of WIT-U

“It is really exciting to be a woman here at the iSchool, where we focus a great deal of energy and attention on our women. The iSchool is a frontrunner in supporting women in STEM here at Syracuse University. Now we have more women heading up major corporations in the STEM fields, and the graduates from the iSchool leading the way. This is due to the experiences and opportunities that they have while they are here.”- Sheila Clifford-Bova, iSchool Program Manager

Why is the lack of women in STEM field a concern?

When women are not seen as equals to men in this field, it especially affects girls. Girls and young women don’t see role models to motivate themselves and see themselves in that position. They are undermined by the idea that this is a “man’s field” where girls don’t belong.

“Women aren’t staying in STEM because they feel like they don’t belong. Women have interesting and cool ideas, which need to represented. For the iSchool, we have one of the highest ratios of male to women. (Female: 40% Male: 60%) Women need to build confidence in their workspace to be successful. IT girls not only exposes girls to tech, it’s about trying and experimenting with new ideas and technology.” –Stephanie Worden, 2016 It Girls Project Manager 

It’s programs like It Girls that are so important for that very reason. This program gives an opportunity and an unforgettable experience, to celebrate their diversity and gender in the STEM field. They also create a future path for girls like them! They are able to create their goals, accomplishments, and stories with the support of past It Girls.

Along with that, creating an encouraging environment for women to thrive in any field is crucial to create more opportunities. The iSchool is doing their part to support women in technology, and even putting on symposiums that solely represent women in the IT field. With more representation, support, and initiatives more and more women can seize opportunities in STEM.