ITU Tech Needs Girls Conference in Brussels
I never would have guessed that I would have the opportunity to present my research and initiative to increase the number of females in STEM fields to the European Parliament at the ITU Tech Needs Girls Conference in Brussels. With Intel's generous sponsorship, this trip turned out to be not only a fun adventure in the incredibly diverse and cultured country of Belgium, but also an amazing learning opportunity and chance to meet international leaders and business representatives from many countries. I enjoyed hearing more about how others are working towards similar goals of getting more girls involved in the tech fields.
On the first day of the trip we were so tired that we dumped our bags in the hotel and crashed in an effort to sleep off the ever-present jetlag. However, after futile attempts to fall asleep in broad daylight, we decided to explore the beautiful city of Belgium and grab a bite to eat. For dinner that night we ate with a group of international leaders in both politics and education and were able to delve into some of the most pressing issues facing girls in STEM fields in their respective countries. Later that night we enjoyed Belgium waffles, of course!
The next morning I attended the Technology Symposium hosted by the European Union and learned to mix and create audio like a DJ. I had never done anything like that before, so it was a great experience and I was able to learn with the local Belgian students who were also attending the symposium.
Some of the businesspeople from the corporate world (like Intel and Cisco), politicians, and educational leaders were at the symposium for media and press conferences. We were bussed to the European Parliament building and I changed quickly into more professional clothes so I could present to international politicians and representatives. I realized how many countries were represented because when I glanced around, it seemed that everyone was conversing in a different language.
My speech went very well, and I think it was well-received by the audience. I enjoyed sharing what I had done and what I plan to do in the future to increase the number of girls in the field by starting at a younger age. People were so interested in the FACT camp (Females Advancing Computing and Technology) that I started for middle school girls that it made me realize its true promise. The interest in the camp made me think that maybe the program could be rolled out nationally or maybe even internationally to increase the number of girls taking computing and tech classes, and entering these traditionally male-dominated fields.
After the conference, we celebrated an amazing day of presentations, photos, networking, and "girls-in-tech" love with more traditional food. Ruthe Farmer, Meiri (another Aspirations Award recipient), my mom, and I were also able to drive to another city called Brugges the next day for some more sight-seeing. We bought chocolate and enjoyed roaming the small, cobble-stone streets of the city. On the last day, my mom and I were able to visit the Atomium (science nerds!), and the Manneken Pis, both of which are national symbols in Belgium. Of course, I was wearing my Intel STS jacket throughout the entire trip!
In all seriousness though, I am so grateful to Intel and NCWIT for providing me with the opportunity to spread my views on Girls in Tech with powerful people at the European Parliament and to learn from the leaders, educators, and politicians on what they think the future holds for girls entering tech fields.