Girl Geek Summit promises girl power

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The Girl Geek Summit aims to get more disadvantaged girls into STEM.
The Girl Geek Summit aims to get more disadvantaged girls into STEM.

Non-profit organisation Africa Teen Geeks is getting ready to host the inaugural Girl Geek Summit at the Momentum Headquarters, in Centurion.

Taking place on 28 and 29 June, the summit aims to inspire 100 high school girls from disadvantaged communities to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

According to Africa Teen Geeks, the event will bring together local and Silicon Valley women leaders to engage in speeches, panel discussions, one-to-one career coaching, and workshops around entrepreneurship.

Statistics from Unesco show only 35% of women make up STEM students in higher education globally.

Explaining the rationale for the summit, Lindiwe Matlali, founder and CEO of Africa Teen Geeks, says the goal is to inspire girls coming from disadvantaged areas to dream big and realise their full potential.

"Prejudice and assumed stereotypes keep women of colour, especially black women, from pursuing and staying in STEM fields. Psychologically, stereotypes on black women's intellect, cognitive abilities and work ethic contribute to their lack of confidence in STEM. Girls interested in STEM are often told that they inherited a male brain.”

She adds: “The gap starts at the basic education level. Only 5% of South African schools teach computer science, for example, and predominately in affluent urban areas.

“With more widespread, equal access to computer science, and female mentors and role models in STEM, we believe we can drastically change these numbers. This event is designed to get girls excited about careers in STEM, demystifying the industry, showing them the many opportunities that exist, and building confidence in their skills.”

The event is sponsored by MMI Holdings and Apodytes, with a speaker line-up that includes Minette Norman, VP of engineering practice at Autodesk.

Norman, who has a long history of mentoring women, is one of only five females at Silicon Valley to hold a technical position of this level.

“After 30 years in the software industry, I cannot accept that women remain such a small minority, that we do not hold at least half of the technical positions, that we are not equally represented in the C-suite or on boards,” says Norman. “My mission is to change that. I want to inspire girls to build the pipeline and come fill the many positions we have open in our companies.”

Other confirmed speakers include Iris Cupido, CEO at SABC Foundation; Dr Zweli Mkhize, patron at Africa Teen Geeks; Buti Manamela, deputy minister in the Department of Higher Education, Science & Technology; Monica Ares, head of technology education at Facebook headquarters in Silicon Valley; and Gilberto Duarte, programme manager of the education for justice initiative at the United Nations office on drugs and crime in Vienna.

Ashlene Van der Colff, MMI group COO, says her company is proud to sponsor the Girl Geek Summit. “As a female at an exco level, I know the value that more female voices would add to our organisation. As such, we are excited to announce our initial commitment to sponsor 90 learners over the next year from disadvantaged communities to grow into our future tech engineers and young leaders.”

Matlali also indicated that Eileen Brewer, director at Symantec and MD of Golden Seeds, will run a workshop with the girls on tech entrepreneurship, how to put together a pitch deck and an elevator pitch, inspiring them to become entrepreneurs.

"Only 3% of women entrepreneurs start information and communications technology businesses, compared to 11% for men. We also know that only 10% of venture dollars globally between 2012 and 2017 went to start-ups with at least one woman founder.

“This workshop is aimed at sowing the entrepreneurship seeds for these girls while they are still young, inspiring them to see themselves as future entrepreneurs," she concludes.

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13 Aug
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