DIY Tech Pop-Ups to Help Young Girls Rise Above: A Not Impossible Original

Luz Rivas – founder of DIY Girls – is re-imagining tech education in her old neighborhood, one girl at a time.
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Luz Rivas – founder of DIY Girls – is re-imagining tech education in her old neighborhood, one girl at a time.

DIY Girls is a non-profit organization founded three years ago by Luz Rivas to provide young girls in Pacoima, an under-served Los Angeles community, with access to technology and engineering experiences that otherwise would not be available them.

Rivas, who grew up in the area, credits an early experience with computer programming as the spark to a life-long interest in science, and she subsequently graduated from MIT and Harvard University.

After a successful career as an electrical engineer, Rivas returned to Pacoima and started DIY Girls to empower young girls to better imagine themselves in STEM careers and to enable the youngsters to acquire the requisite skills to pursue those opportunities.

While Rivas recalls her younger self in the girls her program serves, she also sees “women who are going to be creating inventions that we have never even seen…women who'll become leaders in technological and artistic fields.”

GIRLS & TECH - THE STATS:

Are we moving backwards? In the fast growing field of computer science, women’s representation has actually declined in the last 20 years. Computer science actually is more male-dominated today than it was two decades ago. The number of women who earned undergraduate computer science degrees in 2013 has dropped 51 percent from a high of 37 percent in 1991 (ncwit.org/scorecard).

Addressing girls’ needs is good for business – Women control or influence 85% of consumer purchases in the U.S. Having a workforce that is reflective of a company’s customer base creates a better understanding of customer needs, yielding better products and increasing customer loyalty (she-conomy.com).

Girls aren’t good at math? – Girls made up 63 percent of the 2013 Intel ISEF finalists in biochemistry, accounted for 46 percent of all Advanced Placement (AP) Calculus test-takers in 2013 (ncwit.org/bythenumbers), and contributed 47 percent of the winning projects in the Google Science Fair.

Opportunities in the tech sector – Jobs in the technology sector are high paying and are growing at more than twice the rate of all other industries. In addition, Dice.com reports that the gender pay gap for women is smaller in the tech sector than in all other sectors. Increasing girls’ participation in the computing pipeline is important for promoting equity and for ensuring that girls are enabled to take advantage of jobs and related opportunities.

The importance of role models and mentors – When girls see ‘near-peer’ role models and peers succeeding in technology, they are more likely to be interested in technical subjects and to be less affected by stereotype threat (Girls in IT: The Facts). 

As children’s rights activist Marian Wright Adelman says, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” 

Additional References & Communities: 

Why America Needs 10,000 More Girls in Tech (Go Girl Finance)

Too Few Girls & Minorities Study Tech Subjects (New York Times)

Tech Needs Girls -- @techneedsgirls

Girls In Tech -- @GirlsinTech