Jan/Feb
2016

Minnesota Aspirations for Women in Computing Award Recognizes Young Women in Information Technology

Written by Anne Scherer
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diverse mix of people is in the marketplace, accessing products and services that serve their needs. A company is best suited for success when its workforce mirrors the marketplace.

Russell Fraenkel, interim executive director of Advanced IT Minnesota says, “Women simply bring a fresh perspective to a company or organization’s need for technological solutions to problems and issues and to utilize technology to create opportunities for business growth in the marketplace.” However, women are only 25 percent of the nation’s technology workforce.

Every Minnesota economic engine, from health to engineering, is highly dependent upon technology tools and systems to remain relevant and responsive. Young women are needed to fill the employment gap with their skills and to be technology’s next generation of leaders and innovators.

A PHENOMENAL OPPORTUNITY

The Minnesota Aspiration for Women in Computing Award recognizes young women from Minnesota for their interests, accomplishments and community involvement, as well as their aspirations and leadership in the field of technology. Through collaboration with a growing list of partners, there are opportunities for girls beginning in middle school through high school to participate in year-round IT exploration, associate with girls who have similar interests, engage with women in the field and build non-technical skills for individual growth, confidence and competence. The Aspiration Award was created by the National Center for Women and IT (NCWIT) and is sponsored locally by Advance IT Minnesota, a nonprofit organization. 

Bellmont Partners and General Mills partner together to find these exceptional young women. Devan Sayles, General Mills business analyst, says, “The girls come to our attention through an application process.” The application is multi-faceted and includes sections where girls can elaborate on their involvement in computing-related activities, experience, leadership and college and career goals. Helping these young women to recognize their talent and see that their technological skills and computing-related activities are more than just extracurricular activities is important.  

“By having these awards and celebrating what they have done and encouraging their future aspirations, we are helping them think differently about technology and exposing them to all of the different career options it provides,” says Sayles.  

TWO ROCHESTER AWARD WINNERS

Ruoting Jia, a 2015 award winner, graduated from Mayo High School. “Receiving this award definitely gave me the confidence about my accomplishments and my ability in technology,” says Ruoting. She is majoring in computer science and mathematics at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Ruoting says, “Both the theories and practical exercises are definitely preparing me for my future career.” 

In four or five years Ruoting sees herself as a software developer or pursuing a master’s degree in computer science. Her short-term goals are to make small, effective and useful software programs for college students. Ruoting would like to specialize in software development: computer programming, testing and debugging. “Creativity is also another important reason to make this ‘sounded–boring’ job really interesting,” says Ruoting. Her hope is to encourage more girls to join the field of technology not only to fill the gender gap, but also share the amazing things technology can do to make the world better.

Herchran Singh, a 2013 award winner, graduated from John Marshall High School. 

Receiving the award “showed me that my hard work in becoming educated and educating others on the importance of technology was valued,” says Singh, who is majoring in biology with minors in neuroscience and classics at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. She would like to become a surgeon. “If we want to create more advances in medical treatment and cures, we are going to have to use technology to our advantage,” she says. 

Herchran’s most recent idea was a medication reminder mobile application. She wants to work with healthcare providers to link prescribed medication, dosage and directions to the application directly.

Applications for the 2016 Aspirations Award were due in November 2015. There are 96 final applications submitted from Minnesota. That is a 113 percent increase from last year! For more information visit advanceitmn.org.

Anne Scherer is a freelance writer living in Rochester, Minnesota.