A recent Always ad during this year’s SuperBowl caused quite a stir. It asked viewers, “How do you run like a girl?” Featuring kids and adults of all ages, the commercial sought to shatter modern-day assumptions about a girl’s physical strength, and implored young girls and women to redefine their own power.
Though arguably a little out of place during the highly-anticipated sporting contest, the commercial shed light on a salient social issue, and brought subtle forms of sexism to the limelight.
In the same vein, the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women) brings attention to a similar issue as the nation concludes its celebration of Black History Month and begins its celebration of Women’s History Month. Hosting, Girls, Gigabytes, and Gadgets (3G), an event designed to expose young Black girls to careers with STEM concentrations, NOBEL Women now asks the nation several questions, “How do you code like a girl?, How do you engineer like a girl?, How do you lead like a girl?”
Studies show that though Blacks and other minorities are heavy technology users, their representation in technology corporate management and creation still lags behind. Statistics are even worse when it comes to Black women. The appointments of high profile Black women like Condoleeza Rice to the DropBox Board of Directors, and Denise Young Smith to Apple’s HR team, give hope to Black women everywhere, but the fact of the matter is they are very few and far between.
And, what about the rest of the technology workforce?
According to the National Center for Women and Information Technology, women accounted for only 26 percent of computing personnel in 2013. And, only 3 percent of those women were Black. And what’s even worse, interest as a whole may be waning. Google reported women making up only 18 percent of all computer science majors in 2012 as opposed to 37 percent in the mid-1980s.
As technology continues to evolve, and revolutionize the way we live, work, and play, we must ensure that Black women are involved. They must be at the forefront, leading conversations, and making change. And what’s most important: young Black girls must understand that it is their right to be a part of this technological transformation.
NOBEL Women was founded to increase the number of Black women in elected and corporate office and is now dedicated to serving as a global voice for all women on a variety of issues especially those around leadership. Our focus is to create a class of trained, educated, and equipped Black women leaders. We can only do this by simultaneously working together to improve the lives of women, their families, and their communities. Learning to build generational and community wealth while creating lasting opportunities for entrepreneurial success is integral to this aim.
And, this is where our Girls, Gigabytes and Gadgets (3G) event comes in.
An innovative, day-long weekend session to get young women and girls engaged in the Internet, technology, and digital space, 3G consists of multiple workshops featuring topics that range from app development to social media responsibility and mastery. Girls will be encouraged to use social media throughout the program, and given a specific hashtag to promote the event. Through their own words, commentary, and fingertips, NOBEL Women hopes to empower event attendees to take charge of the day’s experiences and define their own technological futures.
The message of NOBEL Women’s 3G event is clear: Black girls aren’t just to be users of technology, but creators, designers, influencers and decision makers as well.
The end of Always’ commercial featured young girls giving their answers to the question, “How do you run like a girl?” Each answer was more poignant and significant than the one preceding it. Unaffected by societal opinion, many of the girls just ran in place, or said, “as fast as they could,” proving that at that age, many were yet to be negatively affected by societal norms or “standards” for their physical strength.
This mode of thinking can be applied for all girls in any field, and especially for Black girls in STEM. While many girls have never been asked questions, “How do you code like a girl?, How do you engineer like a girl?, How do you lead like a girl?” events like NOBEL Women’s Girls, Gigabytes, and Gadgets, will prove that they should.
Canton, Mississippi native, Waikinya Clanton is the National Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women). This twenty something, whipping young politico is a Capitol Hill veteran and is rapidly becoming rising voice in the conversation surrounding issues regarding women and girls especially as it relates to their roles in leadership. For more from Waikinya, follow her on Twitter @WJSClanton.