BY INGRID SCHAEFER SPRAGUE PHOTOS BY DON BENSMAN
HER Ideas in Motion tackles this current career problem by encouraging and training girls in technical fields that will provide over 80 percent of available jobs in the future. Through hands-on workshops and parent-daughter “hack” days, girls learn technical and creative skills from professionals while building their own projects. In addition, HER Ideas in Motion has developed a women-led approach that combines female technical and creative professionals teaching and mentoring girls to provide access to female role models in these fields.
HER Ideas in Motion Founder Rachel Wilkins Patel says technology and computer science careers offer some of the fastest-growing, highest-paying careers in the United States. Women only represent 15 percent in film cinematography or directorship and 3 to 5 percent in the video gaming industry.
“It’s critical that we ignite girls’ interest in this field, so they are qualified to fill the many lucrative jobs that will be created over the next few decades and equipped to have a voice in the innovations that will shape our future.”
The full-day workshops, HER Ideas in Coding, HER Ideas in Gaming, and HER Ideas in Filmmaking, provide creative opportunities for 11- to 14-year-old girls. Girls get to explore their own ideas based on a unique theme, and can attend all three classes or repeat the same workshop.
“What we have found is that one size doesn’t fit all, so we offer different technology for different girls, for example, video game fans may not be necessarily interested in coding,” Patel says.
HER Ideas in Motion workshops and technology clubs are held at schools, such as Cuyahoga Valley Career Center, in Brecksville, and Laurel School, in Shaker Heights, or at corporations.
Patel has 15 years of experience as a UX (user experience) developer and computer programmer in web design and development at Progressive. She also has an MFA in filmmaking.
“Growing up, I didn’t have a computer or role models—even in college,” Patel says. “I believe I can bring my creative self to IT jobs and make these jobs more accessible to girls, giving them more direction in school courses and instruct on what kind of minors and majors exist. I wish I had that growing up.
“We don’t want women to opt out of high tech careers, we want them in leadership roles in the technology industry and have high-paying jobs. Most of the girls who come to workshop have never been exposed to technology.”
Patel and key colleagues held their first workshop for Progressive employees’ daughters, which was well received.
(Progressive is the key corporate sponsor of HER Ideas in Motion.) Workshops and parent-daughter “hack” days soon developed. Patel says 77 percent of girls are more likely to be influenced by parents in their career choice, and hack days are opportunities for parents to learn about jobs in the field and code along with their girls.
Patel wants to build awareness of the need for women in technology. “Our current goal is to get 2,000 girls by 2020, and we are on our way, expecting to reach that goal,” Patel says. “We have had increased programming over the years and increased interest. That is our goal.
“Northeast Ohio needs to focus on retaining tech talent and driving future innovation. Women are 50 percent of that potential workforce.”
For more information: visit herideasinmotion.com to register for HER Ideas in Motion workshops and parent-daughter hack days on both Mother’s and Father’s Days. Scholarships are available to about 10 percent who apply.
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