Thousands of teen girls’ interests sparked at SheTech Explorer DayMay 05, 2023 12:51PM ● By Julie Slama
East High ninth-grader Addy Feldman and 12th-grader Mia Feldman talk with Miss Utah Lindsey Larsen at the ninth annual SheTech Explorer Day. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
More than 3,000 girls attending the ninth annual SheTech Explorer Day profited from the 1,000 mentors, tech companies and educational institutions who offered classes, tech zone experiences and advice to them.
“Think about something that you totally love, something you totally love to do,” said Cydni Tetro, president and one of the founders of Women Tech Council who oversaw SheTech Explorer Day. “Then think for just a moment how technology might be part of the things that you love to do. You’re going to have an opportunity today to see so many different technologies and to be able to apply to things that you love. Think about if you learn technology, how you can apply that and help us change the world—and some really big problems. Your objectives today are to learn about all sorts of things you don’t know about, to intentionally meet role models— hundreds of them. Take advantage of the time to go and meet those women; they are here because of you.”
Behind the “Imagine the Possibilities” SheTech Explorer Day, was a student board of about 100 girls.
SheTech’s student board has two ambassadors from each high school who serve a one-year term. As ambassadors, they share information at their schools, attend monthly events, belong to school SheTech clubs, and have opportunities interacting with women in tech, industry leaders and the governor.
Many of them participated in the SheTech summer internship program. Several donned cap and gown as seniors and 30 were honored with SheTech scholarships to further their education. Applications for the board and internship are open now at their website, www.shetechexplorer.com.
Hillcrest High Work-Based Learning Facilitator Cher Burbank said her school’s ambassadors have promoted SheTech’s event annually.
“I like how the day is interactive; they’re showcasing their innovation and changes in the industry, and it engages students year after year,” she said.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox supported that as he addressed the attendees.
“Technology is changing rapidly and it’s impacting every single experience that we have; it’s impacting every industry and we need more women involved in those industries,” he said. “I see some of the best leaders in technology in our state here and they are incredible women. You can look up to them. I look up to them. We’ve been working hard to remove those barriers in the past and that’s what today is all about. This will do more to remove barriers than anything else. These people here have broken down those barriers for you and are here to support you in exploration and journey in STEM.”
Tetro realizes the impact SheTech is making as former SheTech students become leaders.
“Last year, a presenter told me, ‘I’m teaching one of the workshops and the only reason I graduated in civil engineering is because I came to SheTech seven years ago. Another told me she had met a woman who was an aerospace engineer, and she decided, ‘I could become that person,’” she said.
Summit Academy senior Kaidence Johnson followed the footsteps of her older sister to serve on the student board. She also serves as vice president of her school’s SheTech Club, a group her sister founded.
“I love the message SheTech is sending of empowering women to get into STEM,” she said. “It’s definitely a field that is growing and I’ve seen on Instagram and on the news how powerful SheTech is. The program is exploding into every school across Utah and every tech industry, so it’s exciting to be part of it.”
Hunter High senior Paris Ott also is a student board member.
“The end of my junior year, I didn’t know what direction I wanted to go and that’s when I came across the opportunity for the summer internship,” she said. “It was through that, I applied to be a board member and found my passion within STEM.”
She learned from data analysts, product managers and software engineers.
“Seeing their passion and the opportunities I had, I realized ‘this is something I can go into.’ I started my school SheTech club and I’ve been helping others see opportunities. At Hunter High School, we have a lot of ethnic kids with Latina and Asian backgrounds. I think a lot of them don’t know that they even have opportunities, especially those like me, as a woman, to have a future in STEM. I think a lot of girls are scared to enter the STEM field because it’s been a male-dominated field. When I see all these women in STEM, it inspires me. I’ve gained so much confidence through this program, and I was able to get an internship with Pixar because of SheTech.”
Johnson said the male-dominance is changing.
“My dad works in tech and says the attitude is changing and they’d love women’s viewpoints, but there’s still the idea of 20 years ago when you didn’t have a chance,” she said.
During the day, students were engaged in workshops such as programming, engineering, robotics, biomedicine, web development, ChatGPT, virtual reality, entrepreneurship and others.
Copper Hills High sophomore Sadie Smith attended their first Explorer Day.
“It is a good way to learn more about different jobs and get that in-depth understanding of technology, specific for girls,” Smith said. “Having an organization run this that encourages women empowerment is cool.”
Riverton High junior Elizabeth Westwood said she was researching engineering and learned about SheTech’s student board and scholarship program.
“Explorer Day seemed like a perfect opportunity to learn more about that and about STEM,” she said. “I love physics and math, which isn’t everyone’s love, but it’s normal here.”
The TechZone offered hands-on learning about aerospace programs, 3D printing, automotive tech, gaming, aerial photography and more. Students also used creativity and visionary skills in the annual TechChallenge, with the guidance of industry mentors.
Participants chatted with Miss Utah Lyndsey Larsen, who shared she was a SheTech ambassador and summer intern as a Skyridge High student.
“I’m hoping I’m breaking stereotypes by talking about tech with a tiara,” she said. “I was really intimidated by math growing up, but I came to SheTech and realized that STEM is all around us. My experiences inspired me to take a kinesiology class. As a dancer, it was interesting to learn about the mind and the body and how that connection and the science behind that. That early exposure here at SheTech helped me want to pursue kinesiology with ballet performance for my college degree.”
Hillcrest High senior Morgan Khantivong, who plans to study English and zoology at Weber State, appreciated what she said.
“It made me see how anyone, no matter what your title is or how people may perceive you, can do whatever you want with your life,” she said.
Nearby, girls crowded around the University of Utah’s entertainment arts and engineering, where they learned about game development.
“We teach everything from the history of games to how to do it, like production, design, tech art, game art, programming, all of that culminating in publishing a game,” said academic adviser Miranda Klausmeier. “We want girls to disrupt the norm and envision their future where they can develop these games, whether it’s a traditional entertainment game, or an alternative game, say for the educational or medical field. These young women here are going to be our leaders in STEM fields.”
Through involvement with SheTech, Adobe Chief of Staff of Cloud Operations Jamie Dalton wants to engage more females into STEM by sharing more career choices.
“We have a community of women here who are wanting to give back and help these young women succeed,” she said. “A lot of times women are pitted against each other and don’t realize if you get into a good healthy environment, women can be your biggest allies. For these high school girls, they’re going to have a really big advocacy group, cheering them on to success.”
Tetro said that is one of the reasons the Women Tech Council founded SheTech—to increase students’ exposure to women in STEM and to have that network “of thousands of women in STEM.”
“We interviewed a 1,000 girls, who said, ‘We don’t know any women in tech and that’s why we don’t enter STEM fields,’” she said. “We knew we could change that.” λ