TL; DR: Technovation provides girls ages 8 through 18 with the resources to excel and break into STEM careers. The nonprofit partners with mentors, parents, and local communities to educate girls with a free curriculum on coding and other breaking technologies to create solutions to real-world problems. Around 76% of Technovation students have pursued STEM degrees, and 60% work in professional STEM careers. Technovation sets out to expand its reach to offer its program to more students across the globe.
The gender gap within the STEM field has long been apparent. For decades, institutions have systematically discouraged girls from pursuing careers in STEM by limiting their access, preparation, and educational opportunities. Today, only 28% of the STEM workforce is composed of women, with men outnumbering women majoring in STEM fields in colleges and universities.
In 1970, women accounted for only 8% of the STEM workforce, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Although women have long been underrepresented in STEM, they have made much progress. And efforts to empower women in these fields have made these gains possible.
But women’s empowerment isn’t only about giving women the confidence and access to tools to freely walk in their identities. It means encouraging them to use those skills to help and inspire others around them. This is evident in the work of Technovation.
“Technovation is on the forefront of mentoring and empowering young women to gain a seat at the table and solve pressing issues—addressing climate, poverty, health care, equity, and education—while tackling gender disparities in tech and STEM,” said Maggie Jaris, Director of Content Strategy at Technovation.
Technovation is a nonprofit organization that aims to decrease the gender gap in the STEM industry by providing young girls ages 8-18 with the resources and leadership skills to break into professional careers. Technovation has served more than 140,000 young girls, most of whom have gone on to pursue STEM careers and impact their communities.
“Most of the girls who participate in Technovation Girls turn around and use the skills and confidence they developed to give back to their communities, other girls, and the world beyond,” said Maggie.
A Groundbreaking Program Built to Advance Women in STEM
Technovation is the world’s largest and longest-running technology entrepreneurship competition for girls. And its barrier-breaking program has helped girls grow into STEM professionals, and it’s had a lasting impact on girls’ attitudes, beliefs, higher ed, and career choices.
“After completing the program, 76% of Technovation alumnae pursue STEM degrees, while 60% work in STEM careers. Many alumnae credit Technovation with influencing their career choice and increasing their self-efficacy while choosing careers in computer science, data science, or engineering,” said Maggie.
And none of what Technovation does would be possible without its community of mentors. Supported by 19,000 volunteers, its mentorship program trains girls to become technology entrepreneurs and innovators. With their mentors’ help, girls learn to code mobile applications to address real-world problems in their local communities.
“Participants in this curriculum-based program work with mentors and local ambassadors to help their community and develop their own technical and leadership skills. It provides a resilient, grassroots, high-touch, support network for girls around the world,” said Maggie.
Here are five ways Technovation programs break gender barriers in STEM:
- Providing a free curriculum to girls worldwide that allows them to either develop a project with artificial intelligence technology or a mobile app prototype.
- Preparing young people to learn the latest technologies, including AI, and adapt to the shifting tech landscape
- Heading national and global campaigns for girls to learn, compete, and innovate with AI
- Establishing clubs and chapters to advance grassroots network with industry mentors
- Continuing support by connecting alumnae with social, technical, and financial capital
Besides its network of mentors, Technovation also works with local communities and parents to help girls receive the education they need to succeed in STEM. Some parents and communities resist at first. But the objections diminish after the girls demonstrate their newfound skills, creative problem-solving, and determination.
“We see every single girl who participates in the program as a winner—this is not an easy program. Most of the girls who join us don’t know how to code or how AI works, but they learn that and how to build a business, manage a project, and work in a team all in 12 weeks—all while being normal kids,” said Maggie.
Inspiring Youth Across the World to Create Their Own Solutions
Technovation has equipped many young people to become successful entrepreneurs and STEM professionals. And this is evident in the organization’s numbers. About 36% of the alumnae went on to start their own companies, while 53% have taken action to improve their communication and address gender inequality, said Maggie. These numbers don’t even measure how many girls in total pursued STEM after high school.
“We are able to see the powerful effect that completing a project has on girls and what it means to them to have adults who listen to them and treat their ideas with seriousness and care,” said Maggie.
The Technovation students have leveraged their skills and knowledge to create incredible solutions and innovation in their communities. Girls applied their AI background to bring innovative solutions to agriculture in Africa, Maggie said. In Asia, they helped increase access and capabilities for direct product sales between female farmers and customers. And there are so many more wonderful stories that Technovation has made possible.
“Winnie Msamba launched a successful sustainable soil substitute business in Tanzania and now employs 25 people. A team from Ukraine successfully raised $55,000 to launch their nonprofit organization and app to support refugee children,” said Maggie.
Maggie said Technovation’s mobile app challenge has also led to some remarkable breakthroughs. Hiya from the US created an application with a sensor device and crowdfunded data to provide real-time water quality information to people anytime. Gabriela from Mexico developed “Ohtli, a journey to reading” to give children access to tales, legends, and stories written and read by Mexican authors.
En Route to Impact 25 Million Girls
Technovation has reached girls in more than 100 countries. And its students have created 10,000 solutions to community problems while in their program. The educational nonprofit has transformed thousands of girls’ lives and has plans to increase that impact even further. Maggie told us Technovation is committed to empowering 25 million young women over the next 15 years by working with other NGOs — large national and multinational community organizations and industry partners.
“Every year, Technovation adds new STEM subjects and always welcomes new mentors to help guide the new generation of changemakers. Based on Technovation’s data and research, about 180 million girls and young women would be interested in technology entrepreneurship,” said Maggie.
Community members can sign up to support Technovation by engaging employees as mentors and judges, becoming funding partners, or helping alumnae find career opportunities. Technovation has made tremendous change worldwide, and many Technovation alumnae now work for Fortune 500 companies, speak at the UN, and are part of UNESCO summits. And the nonprofit continues to reach and empower more girls.
“Strengthening the subjects and including more mentors in the coming years will allow Technovation to improve operations, the infrastructure, network, and technology platforms to ensure girls have a transformative experience,” said Maggie.