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STEM – Encouraging the Next Generation of Girls

The Dallas chapter of ATW (the Alliance of Technology and Women) hosts a yearly event that highlights careers in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  The target audience is older girls.  This year the event was at the Winspear opera house.  ATW invited McNeely to host a table so we could talk to the girls about database administration careers.  I’m the only “girl” DBA at McNeely, so I borrowed a “girl” DBA from another local technology firm, and we manned the table.  (Manned?  Womaned?)

Many girls came by the table.  Some were from local magnet schools; some were from scouting organizations.  The first thing that struck me was how polite they were; the second was how quiet they were.  At their age, I’d never been in a convention-like environment, nor had I seen that many adults concentrated in one place for the purpose of talking to me about my future.  It must have seemed like an awful lot of information at once.

Questions we answered many times: What is a database?  How did you get your DBA job?  They really call you in the middle of the night and you have to fix the database – right then?  You own a company – it’s your company?

One of the older girls was not originally from the United States, and her take on databases was quite different than the others.  She felt that it was a bad idea to concentrate data about people in one place, that it violated their rights.  She said government of her native country collects and analyzes data about the internet activity of its citizens, and it uses the data to persecute them.  I didn’t say this to her, but that same data is almost certainly collected here too – a drib here and a drab there – by ISPs, by tracking cookies, by Google, by others, and who knows – maybe the government, too.  We’ll have to be vigilant that we don’t reach the “persecution” phase.

After the convention style part of the morning was over, the girls got a tour of the opera house, and then they went to the auditorium to hear lectures by various female technologists and a panel discussion by college students from various STEM majors.

I hope this can be good food for thought for the girls and that some of them will seriously consider STEM careers.

Mary Elizabeth McNeely

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