As parents and teachers, we are all very good about offering words of encouragement...
You got this. You can be that. Anyone can be anything!
Comments like these are a great starting point, but the problem is, they’re not actionable.
A better first step involves offering such encouraging words, but also supplying opportunity where there is none, or, providing more info and direction on where that opportunity might be hiding. Now, it’s “you can be anything,” and “here’s how you can start your journey.”
Which brings us to empowerment programs for girls.
These programs are typically summer sessions or outings where young girls engage in activities that improve their self-confidence, ultimately instilling the skills and mindsets they need to go out and make an impact in the world.
Why are these types of programs important?
I mean, how could they not be?
But to tie it in with the above, we tell kids and teens all the time that the sky is the limit, but we need to also show them how to get off the ground.
In a world where high-paying STEM professions and leadership positions in general are dominated by males, these types of programs set girls up for success and prepare them to break down the barriers they may face personally and professionally.
Here are the specifics:
They educate girls about the opportunities out there for them
This first one can be applied to any valuable opportunity, but it’s important, and needs to be stated off the bat.
It’s very easy for kids to go through their daily lives, living inside their bubbles. It’s easy for them to grow up playing with the kids in their neighborhoods. To go to school and learn what is presented to them, then go home, play the sports their friends are playing, learn the instruments their friends are learning, etc.
But if it’s not made known that there are other “ things” outside of their bubble, how is a child ever supposed to want to take part? How is a girl to know that she can be a coder if her friends aren’t interested in coding, or if her teachers don’t teach coding curriculum?
So, girl empowerment programs, just by existing, open the door. Then, when girls walk through that door and attend, they see there are even more doors out there just waiting to be opened.
They give girls the confidence to go out and explore opportunities
Branching off the second part of the above, having the knowledge that something is out there isn’t enough to propel someone to go out and do that thing.
Going back to coding, just knowing that coding exists isn’t going to excite someone to jump into learning all they can about it. In fact, it’s overwhelming to think about being a “beginner” in any aspect, let alone what it takes to be considered an expert of that same thing.
The next step, then, is to just get familiar with coding. Show girls what coding is, and how to go about it in a very basic sense. Let them attack it with their peers, guided by adults who have the skills, knowledge, and experience to make coding digestible.
All of this builds confidence, and if you’re successful in showing why coding is a great skill to have, you empower girls to go out and become great coders.
They give the world a much more balanced voice, and then some
Ok, this one is a little more abstract, but it’s the ultimate goal.
A long term benefit of empowerment programs for girls is that we will - hopefully - have more girls in tech; more girls coding; more girls in leadership positions, etc.
In turn, such involvement results in diversity in the many male-dominated positions of engineers and developers, and the like. From there, this new balanced landscape creates new and different products, services, and solutions that better reflect the needs of the world’s entire population, and not just half of it.
But wait, there’s more…
They create new role models and spark a valuable cycle
Follow the progression—more girls empowered to “do” means more girls “doing,” and more girls succeeding at those things they’re doing. Then, more girls succeeding means more visibility for them and their accomplishments, which leads to others looking up to them and saying “wow, that could be me.” This encourages them to seek opportunity, in which they find an empowerment program to take part in.
Beautiful, isn’t it?
They help close the gender gap in STEM fields
iD Tech has been running summer programs since 1999, with a goal of empowering all students to jump into the increasingly important areas of STEM. 450,000 students later, we can confidently say we’ve helped fill a need—youth needed an opportunity to learn coding, game dev, and robotics, and we have been successful supplying those experiences through coding classes for kids, video game courses, robotics summer camps, and more.
But along the way, it became apparent there was an even bigger gap that needed to be addressed—the gender gap in STEM fields; where the underrepresentation of females is depriving us of the many benefits listed above.
So, above all else, the greatest overarching benefit as eluded to through this entire post is the fact that empowerment programs for girls help close that gap. They give girls the confidence to code that app, design that mobile game, discover AI; to potentially change the course of history and better our world.