By Lea Michelle Cash
Over 20 years ago, African American Latasha Gary, 37, became interested in computers. Today, she is the Director of World Wide Sales Operation Systems for Compaq Computer Company. She manages 25 employees working on various projects around the country and overseas. She became interested in computers in high school, and the school only had one computer. Gary says, “Hanging around that computer was my natural interest. My high school math teacher noticed my computer talents and encouraged me to look into colleges with strong computer science programs. I did and was accepted in my senior year at Texas A & M.”
She continues, “I found myself one of only a handful of females. Texas A & M at that time was exclusively male and populated by mostly white males, many of whom had been exposed to high-level math and computer programs at their school. So, I had to show some initiative to my professors and ask them for help, letting them know that I was going to stick to it and go all the way.” Gary graduated and stuck it out. Then she moved on to Howard University where she earned a Master degree in Computer Science. The year was 1987.
Today, 25 year later the technology field (at large) is desperately looking for architects of change. Females who put an end to the long living myth that girls and women cannot perform as well as men in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Environments and afterschool programs promoting “girl power” are popping up all over America, supporting leadership development and career exploration for girls, transferring knowledge of technology, while introducing concepts such as logical relationships, graphing, and algebra. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and National Science Foundation the STEM fields are expected to add 2.7 million new jobs by 2018, yet women and minorities are vastly underrepresented in those fields. Women make up 46% of the total workforce but hold only 24% of jobs in technical or STEM fields. African-Americans and Latinos each comprise 13% of the total workforce and only 3% of the technical workforce.
In the Inland Empire, starting a technology program for girls has been a dream for the founder, President & CEO of Tech Divas, Cynthia Renee Frazier. Its title is “Girls Got Geek”. Girls who enter this program will learn about creation, innovation, problem solving, teamwork and career development. Recently in June, Frazier held an open house at the Henderson Auditorium located at Community Hospital of San Bernardino. Girls were introduced to many of the latest e-devices that they could explore. The Greek sorority sisters from Sigma Gamma Rho volunteered to assist with the event. The turnout was exceptional and Frazier was very happy. She says, “Girls like solving problems as much as boys. Girls can develop games and mobile apps even better than boys. So, we have got to get girls more excited about today’s technology.” Therefore, Frazier has taken on this project passionately in the efforts to engage, enrich, and empower girls in STEM. She has been active in technology for years. The application creation is growing into a $55 billion dollar industry. Frazier states, “More girls in this career field can really change their lives.”
Latasha Gary would agree. Gary said, “My career field has provided more opportunity beyond anything that I could imagine. I would definitely encourage women to consider a career in technology.” Her greatest achievement was spending 13 months in Singapore, rolling out and implementing a Software Application Program (SAP) for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and India.
This Fall, “Girls Got Geek” is having a Hackathon. They are looking for girls ages 13–25 who would like to put together a “webisode” as a challenge. A webisode is a short episode, which can be downloaded or streamed on YouTube or Cable television. It could be a commercial or collection of short stories. The girls who participate will be grouped into teams. Each team will come up with a theme for their webisode. As a challenge, the webisodes will be played and judged for fun and prizes. The dates are November 16, 17, and 18. The technology used for creating, making and editing the webisodes will be provided.
For more information or to register for this event visit the Girls Got Geek website at www.girlsgotgeek.com.