GWI Senior Manager, Lorena Leon Moreno, shares her experience as a mentor for the Tech Girls Movement Foundation annual Techgirls Competition.
As a migrant, a woman, and a woman working in STEM, I am deeply passionate about diversity and inclusion, and empowering future female STEM leaders. While I am fortunate to work at GWI, a company with an almost 50/50 gender split and a fierce dedication to creating an equal, diverse and inclusive workforce, I know this is not always the case.
The state of STEM gender equity in 2023 findings reveal that girls only make up about a quarter of enrolments in year 12 information technology, physics and engineering classes. And women make up 37% of enrolments in university STEM courses. This trend continues into the workforce with only 15% of STEM-qualified jobs held by women. Moreover, only 23% of senior management and 8% of CEOs in STEM-qualified industries are women.
At school, I was not offered STEM programs or encouraged to pursue STEM subjects or careers. At university, I was usually one out of 2 or 3 women in a class and I was often made feel like I did not belong.
Determined to make a tangible difference in the lives of the next generation of women and girls, I volunteered to manage GWI’s strategic partnership with the Tech Girls Movement Foundation (TGMF).
The annual Techgirls Competition is a 12-week STEM entrepreneurship program where primary and high school students use technology for social good. They have to build an app, a supporting business plan and a pitch to solve a local community problem.
Some of us at GWI have volunteered as judges over the last few years. This year alone, we had 10 volunteers from across all levels of the company, including senior management. However, we had never had a mentor from GWI, so I decided it was time I walked the talk and I signed up as a mentor of this year’s competition.
I was matched with 4 teams of grade 4 and grade 5 girls from Craigslea State School in Brisbane. I met with them once a week to provide advice at each stage of the competition.
In my first meeting with the girls, we talked about what it is like to work in STEM. They were very curious and inquisitive, and we connected just by talking about the diverse likes and interests that can take you to a path in STEM. Their minds work in amazing ways!
The 2023 competition ended a few weeks ago and the winners were announced in a virtual showcase which I was fortunate to attend. While my teams did not qualify for an award this year, I could not be prouder of the effort and dedication they put into their solutions. One of the teams even achieved something they had not done in the previous year which was submitting a fully functional app.
I was with the teams when they were submitting their entries on the last week of the competition and I still remember the excitement. They proudly walked me through their apps and business plans and even asked for help with the final touches to their pitch and demo videos. It was an incredible afternoon.
Being a Techgirls mentor is definitely one of my highlights of this year so far. I was not only impressed by the dedication and patience of my teams’ teachers / coaches, I was also impressed at how determined the teams were to find and work on a community problem to solve. They care deeply about the world they live in and are keen to use technology to make a contribution.
I cannot recommend this experience enough to anyone who is looking to make a tangible contribution to diversity and inclusion in STEM. The research says we need to address this early in the life of children. Being the role model that your ‘9-year-old self’ needed might not only fulfill you on a personal level, it might also be the key to diverse, innovative and better-performing teams in the industry.
Thanks again to my teams and their coaches / teachers for letting me participate in their Techgirls journey and to GWI for introducing me to the opportunity.
- Dream Team – Jasmine, Eleni, Sigrid, Sharon and Clara
- 4 The Love of Friends – Fia, Nerissa, Ava and Hannah
- Super Spice Humans – Jewel, Livia, Karen and Holly
- Better than Nothing – Mikaella, Chloe, Christina
- Alison Jones – Year 5 and 6 teacher / coach
- Katrina Wright – Year 5 and 6 teacher / coach.