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Sugar House Journal

SheTech encourages females to enter STEM field, bring diversity, fill jobs

Apr 30, 2022 09h31 ● By Julie Slama

Gov. Spencer Cox, who has been a strong supporter of SheTech through the years, gave the opening address to about 2,000 high school girls this year. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox isn’t shying away from the numbers nor his goals when it comes to closing the gender gap in women working in the STEM field.

“We want to close the gap when it comes to STEM careers,” Cox said. “We would love to get to 50% and we’re working hard. There is a huge gap in not every part of STEM, but in most parts of STEM.”

Cox has been a long-time supporter of the annual SheTech Explorer Day, now in its eighth year. The STEM career exploration day brought in about 2,000 high school girls from 150 high schools and attracts 1,000 mentors and volunteers from 250 tech companies to teach hands-on workshops in programming, engineering, aerospace, robotics, product invention and entrepreneurship, biomedicine, digital marketing, ecommerce, gaming, esports, virtual reality and more fields.

“The world is changing right now, every single career, every single industry in the world is being influenced by technology,” he told participants. “The connection to tech is so important and there’s a huge gap in STEM more than anywhere else. We desperately need more women in STEM for lots of reasons. We have the best economy in the nation. There are only four states in the country that have more jobs now than they did before the Coronavirus pandemic started two years ago. In the state of Utah, our unemployment right now is 1.9%. That’s the lowest in our state’s history…but with that, it also means right now we have thousands of jobs available that are going unfilled; there are really good jobs and most of those are in STEM-related fields.”

Cox said the need to fill those is real for “people who see the world differently in these jobs. We don’t need a whole bunch of guys in these jobs; we need creativity. I hope you bring that creativity to whatever it is you want to do.”

Cydni Tetro, president and one of the founders of Women Tech Council, said that the SheTech Explorer Day was created to help target young women to enter the STEM pipeline.

“We need the diversity,” Tetro said. “We have 4,000 open tech jobs. We need (women in) them in every field—computer science project managers, UX designers, data scientists, all of them.”

The goal of SheTech to show girls technology in a fun atmosphere while meeting STEM role models to learn about opportunities in the fields. The high schoolers have access to internships, college pathway information and other opportunities. 

Hillcrest High ninth-grader Angelinne Guiterrez was exploring the TechZone, which showcased aerospace programs, technology in soft drink distribution, museum and aquarium careers and working in local and worldwide software companies.

“I was really interested in how math probability works,” she said after learning more about it at an exhibit.

Her friend, sophomore Samantha Erickson, felt weightlessness while trying out a bicycle gyroscope.

“The force of it was moving me in that direction, which was really cool to experience,” she said.  “I’ve checked out every science—biology, aerospace, physics. Marine biology interests me.”

Hillcrest sophomore Elena Parker was investigating future job opportunities, including working at a museum.

“I love being surrounded by history and making exhibits would be really cool,” said Parker, who would like to work at a museum through college before creating her own cartoon series. “My dream is to inspire people to find their passion.”

Cottonwood High sophomore Keian Flake was checking out exhibits in her first SheTech visit.

“This is all very cool; I’ve seen everything from computer science to robots,” said the future architect designer.

Jordan High juniors Kat Marshall and Alicia Appleton learned about technology in video game development and 3D modeling. Both may pursue a career in forensic science.

Alta High freshman Nariska Clement, who wants to be a mechanical engineer, was looking at some robotics and CAD opportunities while her friend Mariam Ilaha Mujadidi was learning more about coding as she may want to enter the IT field as a software engineer.

American Preparatory Academy students Camille Liebsch and Natalia Gutrierrez were coding Ozobots.

“This is a real opportunity to learn a lot of cool things in tech and to make the world better,” Liebsch said. “It gives women a chance to step it up.”

Gutrierrez said that the atmosphere was inviting.

“It’s a safe space where everyone is supporting the learning that is going on here,” she said.

Business leaders also prospered from the interaction with the girls.

“At Oracle, we’re the world’s largest database management company and we have women in our leadership so empowering girls in STEM education is important,” said Catherine Hammond, fusion cloud ERP customer support manager.

Caroline Lamph, director of product management at Entrata property management software, said that it’s important to get girls in the predominantly male-oriented tech industry.

“We need the diversity of women in technology,” she said. “It makes us holistic. We want more opportunities for women so we’re actively looking to find more women leaders.”

Maple Mountain senior Victoria Parrotti is one of about 30 girls who make up the SheTech student board which helped plan the event.

“I like seeing other women who have similar interests as I do,” she said. “This is an important day. We’re making female connections and are finding opportunities through SheTech.

At the end of the day, the high school students participated with adult visionaries and mentors in a 45-minute Tech Challenge where they ideate, solve and pitch solutions.