DigiGirlz event encourages high school girls to pursue tech careers

OLATHE, Kan. - More than 200 girls from middle school and high school gathered at Kansas State University-Olathe on Tuesday morning.

They attended the Microsoft DigiGirlz High, an event that helps break down stereotypes and encourages women to think about careers in STEM fields- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

“It's a worldwide initiative that Microsoft started about 20 years ago,” Program and Community Manager for Microsoft Mary Mathiowetz said. “We have thousands and thousands of young women that we bring in and show them the cool parts about technology.”

Mathiowetz said in the next six years, there will be more than 3 million jobs in STEM fields.

“Women right now make up only six percent,” Mathiowetz said about STEM careers. “So that's really, we need to get these young women that are passionate about what they're doing and help them stay with it.”

Supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle, the event brought girls face-to-face with several women in the STEM fields, and also a chance to get a glimpse into what these careers are.

“I'm still indecisive, but some things have kind of made me want to decide and actually go into that field,” 11th-grader Carmaleta Davis said. “As far as engineering, I was very interested in that one.”

Black and Veach Mechanical engineer Elizabeth Brechbuhler said incorporating these programs early will help expose different career opportunities at a young age.

“I think it's incredible that we're in an area where they have access to these types of programs. I know growing up in a rural town, I really didn't have anything like this and it would've been awesome to learn at a younger age and then kind of try and take classes to prepare me for that,” Brechbuhler said. “I really want them to know that they can do anything they set their mind to. There are no limitations based on their gender. If they want to be an engineer, they can be an engineer. They should not be deterred based on their gender.”

Girls like Davis and 8th-grader DaNae Estabine said seeing these women take over the STEM field encourages them they can be anything they want to be.

“When I see it, I get excited, because it's representing me,” Davis said.

“It’s just to show girls that they can do it, if they want to do it, it doesn't matter if the area it's all men, if you want to do it, you can do it,” Estabine said.

Twenty middle schools and high schools were represented at this event.

This is the second year Kansas State University – Olathe has held this event on campus.

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Rae Daniel can be reached at Rae.Daniel@KSHB.com.

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