Open Opportunities: Girls in Technology Program Encourages Students to Think STEM

A crowd of nearly 200 girls—some as young as third grade—gathered at Telos’ Ashburn headquarters Thursday night to get an up-close look at opportunities awaiting them in science and technology fields.

Sponsored by Women in Technology (WIT), the event allowed the students to get up close with robots, engineers and scientists in the hallways before a formal program in which four women who built successful careers Girls in Technologyshared their stories. Norma Henry, vice chairwoman of Loudoun’s Girls in Technology committee, told her audience of elementary, middle and high school students that they were lucky to be living in the Washington, DC area where there is an abundance of high-paying technology jobs and not enough qualified workers to fill them.

WIT’s Girls in Technology initiative is designed to give students early exposure to the opportunities that lie ahead for them in STEM fields. There was a common message to the girls from the panelists, each of whom arrived at her current position by an indirect path. Don’t worry, things will work out, they said.

Heather Pomerene said she grew up loving math—as a youth she did

Heather Pomerene
Heather Pomerene

complicated long division problems for fun—and charted a career path in nuclear medicine. However, conversations with her college roommate turned her attention to mechanical engineering and dreams of designing cars for BMW. That didn’t pan out either. Today, she designs rockets and satellites as a senior principal engineer at Orbital ATK.

Linda Decker earned an economics degree and then worked as an administrative assistant for a top executive at a Telos subsidiary. He recognized her skills and encouraged her to get involved with the IT side of the company’s operations. She ended up working as the sole IT technician serving a staff of 80. Today, she is the system network administrator for Telos Identity Management Solutions.

Stephanie Spiers was a political science major in college before switching to legal studies. After finding her job as a paralegal unsatisfying, she joined a small technology company and sold Linux products. On a whim, she applied to Amazon and was hired to join the sales team at Amazon Web Services.

Meenakshi Parthasarathy grew up in New Deli, India with dreams of becoming an astronaut. Later, she hoped to become a lawyer or an

Girls in Technology forum
Girls in Technology forum

economist. She earned a business degree in finance. She has been NeuStar’s director of customer relations for the past 5 years.

“Don’t stress,” Spiers said. “You don’t have to know it all. You can always change careers.”

“Pick something that you really like to do—that you’re passionate about,” Parthasarathy told the audience. “The rest will fall into place.”

The evening’s talk wasn’t the end of the program for many of the students. Drawings were held to select girls to visit area technology companies that volunteers to provide the students with a closer look at what they do—and what they might do someday.

5 thoughts on “Open Opportunities: Girls in Technology Program Encourages Students to Think STEM

  • 2016-04-15 at 9:47 pm

    It’s great to have more women and girls considering STEM.

    But I do have one question for Telos CEO John Wood. Last year at an event discussing Loudoun County schools’ performance, John said he couldn’t care less about Loudoun’s results of the renowned international PISA tests. You see, you’ve probably heard about these PISA tests when they report on the news that the US ranked 28th out of 34 OECD countries overall in math. That’s even worse than our middle of the pack ranking for reading (17th).

    But you know what’s scary? Loudoun high schools ranked absolutely last compared to similar students in those same 34 countries in math and science!!! PISA only measures students’ ability to apply skills so it’s far from a memorization test. And Telos CEO couldn’t care less! Why would such a seemingly well-informed, STEM advocate ignore the danger signs on our schools? Does he not understand the statistics that are used to analyze the STEM results? Maybe he should read more in the link above.

  • 2016-04-17 at 11:04 am

    I can tell your exactly why he doesn’t care about the test that you are so passionate about – because it does not matter at all.

    While we are on the topic, please stay on topic. This story is not about your Facebook page and rantings. It is about a program to encourage and motive our daughters.

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  • 2016-04-18 at 9:12 am

    We need girls to focus on STEM subjects. Alex Fogelson, an LCPS “career switcher” himself who teaches higher level math, invited me to touch base with him at an LCPS debate contest last year. So I took him up on the offer. He told me that:

    1. Kids don’t care about learning the material, they only care about their grades

    2. Kids know they will have to retake courses like calculus, physics, etc. so why worry about how well they are taught

    3. He knows better than the standards what should be taught so he essentially glosses over some areas in these higher level STEM courses.

    I told him that was patently false. So we invited over one of the debate competitors who was enrolled in AP calculus. She pretty much refuted everything he said. She went on to say her LCPS STEM teacher was horrible and the kids had to organize study groups/tutors on their own simply to have a chance at passing the test.

    This is why it matters. When you have ineffective STEM teachers in high school who are either incapable of teaching the material or unable to make it interesting, these young girls will not pursue STEM majors. How can we know which teachers are effective and whether LCPS has a quality STEM program? By measuring whether our kids are performing on par with similar districts around the country and world who have affluent children of accomplished professionals. The PISA results were very clear – our results are subpar. John Wood wants to bury those results along with the LCPS administrators. While bringing girls to a one-day event is great, sentencing these girls to sit through STEM classes with ineffective teachers will more than undo any positive effects of this one-day event.

    We must wake up if we want more of our kids pursuing STEM.

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