TechGirlz found itself on the virtual national stage when director Amy Cliett moderated the “Revelations From Our Pandemic Pivots” panel discussion March 9 at the virtual SXSW EDU Conference & Festival. Joining TechGirlz were three other organizations that inspire girls and young women to pursue tech careers or healthy, balanced lifestyles.
The participants shared how their organizations have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The other panel participants were Ashley Turner of Philly Tech Sistas, Isis Miller of Black Girls CODE, and Lauren Psimaris of Girls on the Run.
Before COVID necessitated school closures and limited public gatherings, each of the groups provided direct, in-person interaction between students, instructors and mentors. The pandemic presented an operational challenge and required the groups to re-think how to move forward during pandemic-related remote learning.
“There is strength and wisdom in working to lift one another through difficult times,” Cliett said. “While TechGirlz learned plenty of lessons by managing our pandemic pivot, it was important for us, and others, to hear and learn from other organizations who had faced similar challenges.”
She added, “We were proud to share this virtual stage with other organizations who not only faced similar challenges but also managed to not just survive, but to thrive.”
TechGirlz’ pandemic pivot
TechGirlz, a nonprofit program of Creating IT Futures with a mission of fostering a love for technology among middle-school girls, responded by converting TechShopz, their hugely popular free, hands-on, in-person workshops, to a virtual format. New virtual offerings continue to be added to the schedule.
In addition, TechGirlz staff began to reimagine how they could continue to meet girls’ needs not only for tech education, but also for community. Their solution – TechPodz– launched last October.
TechPodz are small groups of middle-school girls and TechGirlz volunteers who meet virtually once a week for six weeks. Within each TechPod, the girls make connections with others their age while learning various tech topics and other skills. Additionally, each TechPod has assigned teaching assistants, so there is a familiar adult during all TechPod sessions. To further encourage a sense of community with other girls and women in tech, each TechPod is named after a notable woman in tech – for example, Ada Lovelace, Gladys Mae, Grace Hopper, Katherine Johnson, the Women of ENIAC, and others.
How to support TechGirlz
Volunteer. Whether now, while TechShopz are virtual, or after social distancing is over, volunteers are needed to lead TechShopz, be teaching assistants, or help with other volunteer opportunities. Get started here.
Sponsor. TechGirlz is committed to keeping programs free, which makes donor support critically important. Sponsorship opportunities are available at multiple levels to fit any budget, with more information about sponsoring virtual workshops and instructional webinars found here.
Attend or support the Women in Tech Summit (WITS). WITS is not only a premier conference for women in tech, but is also one of the primary fundraisers for TechGirlz. All post-expense proceeds from the summit directly support TechGirlz programs. Tickets are still available for the WITS Spring 2021 Virtual Summit on March 24 - 26. Or consider supporting via a WITS sponsorship.
About the other organizations
- Black Girls CODE shows the world that black girls can code and do so much more. By reaching out through workshops and after-school programs, Black Girls CODE introduces computer coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities. Black Girls CODE has set out to prove that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. Learn more at blackgirlscode.com.
- Girls on the Run is a transformational, physical-activity based positive youth development program for girls in the third through eighth grades. Girls are taught life skills through dynamic interactive lessons and running games. The program culminates with girls being physically and emotionally prepared to complete a celebratory 5K running event. The goal of the program is to unleash confidence through accomplishment while establishing a lifetime appreciation of health and fitness. Girls on the Run of Southeastern Suburban, Penn., is an independent council of Girls on the Run International, which has a network of 200+ locations across the United States and Canada. For more information, visit gotrpa.org.
- Philly Tech Sistas is an organization helping women of color gain technical and professional skills to work, thrive, and move up in the tech industry. It provides intro to programming workshops and professional development events that build leadership, confidence and community. Their vision is to partner with tech companies throughout the Philadelphia area to help bridge the diversity, equity and inclusion gap by providing a greater pipeline of diverse talent. Learn more at phillytechsistas.org.
“The remarkable pivots and achievements of these four non-profits during a global pandemic, especially given limited resources, have produced lessons that can be applied to any organization, non-profit or for-profit, on how to creatively manage through a crisis,” Cliett said.
Learn more about these organizations and their pandemic pivots in a follow-up discussion with the panelists on May 20th at WITS Connect. Register to attend here.
About SXSW EDU
Though it was held virtually this year, the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival usually takes place each March in Austin, Texas, as a four-day event offering compelling sessions, in-depth workshops, engaging learning experiences, mentorship, film screenings, future-focused competitions, an expo, networking opportunities, and more. Additionally, the organization is known to host assorted community events throughout the year both in-person and online.
SXSW EDU is a component of the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) family of conferences and festivals.
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