How Accenture mentors are inspiring girls to join the tech industry
December 14, 2020
When Nirmala, Daya and Tess were at school, tech careers were not apparent for girls. So, when they were offered the opportunity to volunteer for the Tech Girls Movement, working with primary and high school students to inspire a new generation of female technology professionals, they jumped at the chance.
Research shows that girls opt-out of STEM at 6 years of age, mainly because girls don’t have any visible female role models working in technology and don’t understand what STEM professionals do. The Tech Girls Movement was founded six years ago to do something about that. The organisation champions Australian school girls, using hands-on learning to help transform their future and encourage equity in the technology industry.
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"It’s exciting seeing young girls being exposed to this type of project which completely opens their minds. We didn’t get any of these opportunities when I was in school. I can’t wait for this generation to graduate from uni and change the world."
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The Movement’s core program is its annual Techgirls Competition. Techgirls is a 12-week STEM Entrepreneurship program run by the Tech Girls Movement Foundation. The program gets schoolgirls to form a team to identify and solve a problem in their local community. They build a business case, create a working app prototype, and pitch their app to industry judges. All teams are matched with a real-life female STEM mentor to help guide them through the 12-week program.
Daya’s first connection with Techgirls was last year when she took over mentoring a previous competition winner. “The team was so excited about their app idea, they wanted to enter it in other competitions. Their original Accenture mentor wasn’t super technical, so she reached out to me because she knew I loved development work. We took a year to develop a business plan and a website and built out the app. The team entered into a global challenge and came in the top 100 in the world. Even more importantly, they inspired one of the other teams from that school to have a go.”
“It’s exciting seeing young girls being exposed to this type of project which completely opens their minds. We didn’t get any of these opportunities when I was in school. I can’t wait for this generation to graduate from uni and change the world.”
Nirmala, who is in her second year of volunteering for Techgirls, has always been passionate about volunteering and teaching the younger generation. “For me, more than technology, it’s about making young kids curious, interested and inspired. I’m always blown away by how smart the girls are and how many ideas they have! I was really impressed when my year 4 team – Digital Heros - started coding and achieved a certificate for successful completion of “The Hour of Code” training, demonstrating an understanding of basic concepts of Computer Science. That was a memorable moment for me!
“The best thing is the relationship you build with the girls and seeing them gain confidence. My role is to give them the courage to succeed. I like the emphasis on teamwork. It’s not about one person. Everyone brings different skills and the girls learn that, as a team, they can do anything. Nothing is impossible when there is desire, effort, commitment, dedication and energy in the right direction.”
As a self-confessed, ‘non-techy’, Tess wasn’t sure whether she had the right skills for the program. “I soon realised my role wasn’t to teach coding but to be a guide and an external point of view. The girls are looking to us for validation – and inspiration. So many of my team want to talk to me about what we do in the business and how technology plays a role in that. I’ve never really thought of myself as a role model, but I know they’re looking at me and seeing where they might be in the future. It’s good for them to realise you don’t have to be a programmer to work in the tech industry. ”
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"The best thing is the relationship you build with the girls and seeing them gain confidence. My role is to give them the courage to succeed."
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“I’ve loved watching them discover that hard work pays off. They do everything from conceptualising an idea to actually building the product. There’s such a sense of accomplishment and pride. We’re teaching them they can do whatever they set their mind to.”
All three mentors strongly encourage other women to participate in this type of program.
Daya sums up their joint message: “Go for it! It’s such a fun thing to do. There’s totally no pressure to teach code. Most of the teams are self-sufficient. Your job is to listen to the girls’ ideas, form a bond with them, stand with them and encourage them.”
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"I’ve never really thought of myself as a role model, but I know they’re looking at me and seeing where they might be in the future. It’s good for them to realise you don’t have to be a programmer to work in the tech industry."
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The team – “Digital Heroes” from Mount Sinai College, Maroubra, NSW were virtually mentored by Nirmala and Renee Dvir from Cloudera. Digital Heroes won the award for the “Best App Name”. The app titled “Jinder” is designed for people who have lost their jobs in Covid-19 and in general. Congratulations to the girls - Eve Arber, Rexie Macpherson, Bianca Szwarc and Shyelle Dvir & their awesome coach - Jesse Black.
Watch the Jinder pitch video here. Below is a snapshot of a few key moments of the team during their virtual 2020 Techgirls journey.
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