Through mentorship and skill-building, Digital Media Academy’s Made By Girls program and Unity are working together to inspire and empower the next generation of female leaders in the tech industry.
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, 74% of high school girls are interested in STEM but less than 1% of college freshman girls decide to major in Computer Science. Lack of role models, support, and negative stereotypes play a big role in preventing girls from pursuing STEM (American Association of University Women). As coding has become an increasingly essential skill, the lack of girls and young women entering the technology field has the potential of stifling innovation in an increasingly digital world. What’s more it prevents women and girls from having a voice on what the future will be – what health systems, laws, cities, and daily life will be like. DMA’s Made By Girls program has the mission to bring girls together in an environment where they can be leaders and express their creativity and personality through technology.
Both research and our own experiences with Made By Girls have shown how important role models and positive early experiences with STEM are for helping girls reach their potential. We are overjoyed to partner with creative, passionate women from Unity Technologies to provide positive examples of women showcasing their creativity and leadership in tech careers. Most recently, we worked together organize a VR workshop and career day for girls at the Unity offices in San Francisco. On March 31, 2017, a group of 5 girls and young women from the MBG community joined us for an afternoon to meet and share with Unity Technologies’ female technical staff, participate in a VR design workshop, and discuss careers in technology.
The goals of the afternoon were threefold:
1) provide positive role models for girls,
2) build interest and curiosity for computer science, and
3) elevate women in tech careers to their rightful role as leaders and heroes to the next generation of builders and creators.
The girls loved working with the women of Unity. Responses to the question about something they learned from the Unity mentors that they didn’t know before included “VR programming” and “I learn[ed] that meeting incredible people all together can make awesome games out of ideas”. They also loved the VR workshop and were excited to see the Unity offices:
“My favorite part was the tour because it was nice to see the different places people work.”
“I enjoyed doing the workshop after lunch”
“Every time with this awesome woman is really fun”
As we had hoped, the girls grew more interested and engaged in Computer Science. Prior to the event, surveys showed the average interest in CS for the group at 3.8 out of 5. After the event, that number rose to an average of 4.6 out of 5. It’s incredible what a difference an afternoon can make.
The experience was also inspiring to the women at Unity. In our debrief, several Unity staff members commented on how it brought another layer of meaning to their career to hear how inspiring their work was to the girls. In post-surveys, the majority of mentors rated 10/10 the usefulness/importance in their career of having participated in this event. They all agreed that this kind of event creates social change, and 2 out 3 reported benefits in terms of professional networking and adding fun to work.
We were were heartened by the positive response from both girls and women. All of us at Made By Girls and Unity plan to continue working with girls and women for VR workshops and other opportunities to engage. We agree that VR provides a valuable lens through which young people can reimagine the realm of the possible and engage in meaningful, personal level with STEM.
Many thanks to Dioselin Gonzalez, MBG role model and force of nature, for spearheading this initiative at Unity and the incredible efforts of everyone involved:
Amy DiGiovanni, Software Engineer, Unity Labs
Crysta Frost, Production Associate, Education Department
James Battersby, Sr. Technical Artist, Education Department
Lolita Amica, Recruiting, University Relations Diversity and Inclusion
Sarah Levantine, Sr. Technical Project Manager, Platforms