Photograph by Toshi Tasaki
It’s no secret that the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields are some of the fastest-growing and highest-paying out there. But it’s also not surprising that the majority of STEM jobs go to men. Working to bridge that gender gap and inspire the next generation of women in tech are Nicole Lesser, executive director of Girls Inc. Westchester (right), and Tatiana Mangram-Rock, STEM program facilitator (left). “When girls receive the message that they can’t do math or science, they shy away from the education they need in order to pursue these careers,” says Lesser. That’s where Girls Inc. Westchester comes in.
“We provide support that counteracts these cultural messages,” Lesser explains, pointing to three STEM programs that Girls Inc. Westchester currently operates: Operation SMART, a weekly STEM-themed after-school program for middle-school girls; a two-week summer camp, SMARTech, which focuses on computer coding and environmental sciences for seventh and eighth grade girls; and its popular Made with Code workshops, which are a part of Girls Inc.’s national partnership with Google. Since 2014, 13 of these girls-only coding parties have taken place in Westchester, serving nearly 300 students and helping to bust stereotypes about being too “girly” for technical careers. Says Mangram-Rock, who runs the Made with Code sessions: “Teaching young women at earlier ages about STEM will build their confidence to break the mold and allow more women the chance to be STEM leaders.”