By Dr Janine Beekhuyzen
The Tech Girls Movement was created to inspire and empower girls from as young as 5 to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Match). Through the Tech Girls Are Superheroes campaign, contemporary role models are presented to counteract the outdated negative stereotypes that regularly appear in mainstream media. Girls from 7-17 years old are invited to build confidence and skills with Science and Technology through our Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero / Technovation Challenge competition.
Recent 2017 research from 1New York University demonstrates how early gender stereotypes take hold, they report 6 years old, and they argue that such stereotypes have potential to have a life-long impact. Thus the Tech Girls Are Superheroes campaign presents real life women working in STEM as fun superhero characters who change the world every day with technology. Mentoring is also key to the program with each team of girls in the competition being matched with a female mentor working in STEM.
If at 6 girls “become less likely than boys to associate brilliance with their own gender and are more likely to avoid activities said to require brilliance”1, then long-term evidence-based interventions are necessary. The Tech Girls Movement is well positioned for this challenge.
But why is it important to engage girls and women in STEM? Firstly, this is a serious economic issue around the world and most countries are losing billions of dollars every year but not having a qualified workforce capable of building the technologies of the future. We have a leaky pipeline, meaning we don’t have the talent pool we need to not only innovate but to maintain current systems we have.
Diversity is a no-brainer and the research supports this. Companies perform better financially with diverse teams and they have better company reputation6. The proportion of women directors is linked to reduced conflict and increased board development efforts34. Furthermore, innovation is positively correlated with diversity2. Companies are also more likely to get a patent accepted and cited – up to 42% more likely – with a woman on the team5.
With the importance of the topic in mind, and based on the growth and success of the Tech Girls Are Superheroes campaign in Australia since 2014, the Tech Girls Movement launched in New Zealand in March 2017. From 18 girls in participating in the competition in 2014, 132 in 2015, just over 500 in 2016, we are expecting more than 2000 girls in 2017, including welcoming our New Zealand teams for the first time.
We are excited to bring our successful program to New Zealand in 2017 and invite all school girls between 7 and 17 years old to join us. We also invite local NZ mentors to register and we will match them with teams locally. Registrations close on the 21st of April – the program begins in Term 2 on the 1st of May. Register here: www.technovationchallengeapac.org
The Founder and CEO of the Tech Girls Movement, Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen, has been running STEM intervention programs for girls for 15+ years and researching their impact, which has helped to develop a depth and breadth of understanding of the barriers and enablers to girls and women in STEM.
2. Miller, T. & del Carmen Triana, M. “Demographic Diversity in the Boardroom: Mediators of the Board Diversity – Firm Performance Relationship,” Journal of Management Studies, vol. 46, no. 5 (July 2009): p. 755-786. 37
3. Ashcraft, C. & Breitzman, A. “Who Invents IT?: An Analysis of Women’s Participation in Information Technology Patenting,” National Center for Women & Information Technology (2007)
4. Kotiranta, A., Kovalainen, A. & Rouvinen, P. “Does Female Leadership Boost Firm Profitability?” EVA Analysis, no. 3 (September 24, 2007).
5. Nielsen, S. & Huse, M. “The Contribution of Women on Boards of Directors: Going Beyond the Surface,” Corporate Governance: An International Review, vol. 18, no. 2 (March 2010)
6. Brammer, S., Millington, A. & Pavelin, S. “Corporate Reputation and Women on the Board,” British Journal of Management, vol. 20, no. 1 (March 2009).