The Examiner

Westchester Program Looks to Bridge the Tech Gender Gap

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By Neal Rentz

SummerTech co-founder Steven Fink with student Annie Gonzales

With this generation’s explosion of technology and an almost endless supply of new gadgets and programs coming on the market, it might be expected that a healthy percentage of young women would flock to the computer science field.

Educators at SummerTech, a private summer education program that rents space at SUNY Purchase, maintain that isn’t the case.

SummerTech held an open house on July 25 to preview its all-girl computer program starting next year. Campers are between the ages of eight and 17 and most live in Westchester but organizers are hoping to attract students throughout the country, including more girls, to participate in 2013.

Last Wednesday, program co-founder Steven Fink introduced young women to a preview of next year’s computer classes.

“We invited people to come in and see what’s going on and learn about what we do,” he said.

While the emphasis of the camp is on computer skills, SummerTech also offers sports and recreation, comedy improvisation, ukulele playing and a variety of other activities.

Despite the expanding role of technology in society, female students take computer classes less frequently than their male peers, Fink said. That spills over into the workforce where it is estimated that just under 30 percent of technology and computer science professionals are women.

“Typically girls don’t go into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) field as much,” he said. “We’re trying to bring them in and create an atmosphere here where they can learn together amongst girls.”

Fink said some girls are enrolled in SummerTech, but “they walk into a room of 50 boys and they’re a little intimidated and they’re often not pulled into the things that we’d like to see them doing and we know they can do.’

Fink said next year’s program will have girls-only computer classes, such as web design, animation and graphic and game design while the remainder of the day’s activities will remain co-ed.

“We feel it’s a little more comfortable that they’ll be learning from female teachers who can relate with them better and we feel it’s just a better atmosphere,” Fink said.

Joanna Ip, SummerTech’s co-director, said a key goal of the open house was to encourage young women to attend the program next year.

“Our current girls come into camp and they’re extremely intimidated, but they warm up eventually,” Ip said. “But I believe that if there were more girls involved in the same classroom they would feel much more comfortable.”

SummerTech student Annie Gonzales of the Bronx, who will be entering her freshman year in high school this fall, said she likes the idea of having computer classes exclusively for girls. Though she was interested in learning about technology, many of her peers “have different interests,” she said.

“I feel working with a lot of guys makes you feel a little lonely,” Gonzales said. “You feel a bit shyer.”






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