Compute This: Inspire Girls and They will Choose STEM Careers

If you want more girls to go into tech—try paying them before they start.  That’s what The National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) is doing, but also building a community of support for these future tech trailblazers.

Since 2007, 2,200 young women have become apart of  NCWIT's Aspirations in Computing program. The idea is to increase the participation of girls in tech careers by bringing them into the Aspirations in Computing community. Once in this big club, they’ll get encouragement, internships, visibility and mentoring—for four to seven years.

Venture Capitalist Brad Feld, who is on the board of NCWIT, and his wife, Amy Batchelor, have offered to award each of the 32 national winners $1,000. They did the same a few years back. In his announcement, Feld encourages people to talk about inequality in computing.  Years ago, after a dinner conversation, Feld says he was easily convinced about the importance of recruiting more women into tech careers.

Girls just need to articulate how they intend to use technology in whatever field they’re interested in—be it fashion, environmental science, journalism or just plain STEM stuff. They’re judged on computing and IT aptitude, leadership ability, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

Just liking tech could get a high school girl a cool $1,000 and encourage more girls to dip their toes in–a little deeper.  The hope is, they’ll dive in eventually.

"Every one of the 32 young women who got the first round of scholarships went to college--the vast majority majored in computer science. We've gotten numerous thanks over the years from a number of them -- it's very powerful to see them pursuing a career in a field they are passionate about," Feld told VITAMIN W.

Here's how it works: 1,200 girls will be accepted into the program, 32 will win the Aspirations in Computing Award. Award winners will get a new laptop, an all-expense paid trip for them and a guardian to accept the award in Charlotte, N.C.in March,  and of course $1,000. Entrants must be in grades 9-12 and the deadline is Oct. 31. 

Photo: University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) via Creative Commons/Flickr