REDMOND, Wash., April 27, 2000 — Every year for the past few years, 12-year-old Bethany Potter and her 10-year-old sister, Rebecca, have attended Microsoft Corp.’s annual Take Our Daughters to Work Day event with their father, David Potter, a Microsoft software design engineer. Today is Bethany’s fourth appearance, and Rebecca’s third.
“I want to expose my kids to both Microsoft and technology,” David Potter explained. “We have a lot of technology in our home, but I want them to see it from other peoples’ perspectives, and to show them what is possible.”
Potter’s wish is not uncommon. Today’s culture is becoming increasingly technology-oriented. Over 16 million kids are online today, and by 2002, nearly 40 percent of children aged 7 to 12 are expected to have some form of Internet access at home or school. The National Science Foundation predicts that the lack of technical education and experience among women will be detrimental to our increasingly technology-oriented society as our country’s shortage of skilled high-tech workers continues.
Take Our Daughters to Work Day was started eight years ago as a nationwide initiative to help girls get a firsthand look at careers they might want to pursue someday. Last year, over 56 million adults participated, and nearly three in 10 American companies sponsored workplace activities. Almost 19 million girls were taken to work, and of the adults who were involved, nearly 40 percent were men.
Microsoft has hosted Take Our Daughters to Work Day activities eight years in a row. Today, the company hosted a conference featuring Microsoft Digital Diva Stacy Elliott. Elliott’s job is to be Microsoft’s consumer ambassador and simplicity spokesperson, serving as an advocate for people who are just beginning to explore the possibilities offered by digital technologies. Today’s program opened with Microsoft Chief Information Officer Rick Devenuti addressing more than 300 girls and their parents or mentors.
“There is no limit to what you can do,” Devenuti said. “I hope that after today, you will broaden your view of what you can do with your life.”
The event was sponsored by Hoppers, an officially recognized women’s organization within the company. Female employees use Hoppers as an empowerment tool — networking, participating in mentor programs, sharing job concerns and experiences, learning how to balance work and family, and helping to advance their careers.
“Take Our Daughters to Work Day at Microsoft began eight years ago, and we have been its sponsor from the very start,” said Laura Higgins, chair of Microsoft Hoppers. “This is happening all over the country, including 14 other Microsoft locations. We have about a thousand girls participating in total.”
The mission of Hoppers, named after Admiral Grace Hopper, one of the first women in technology, is “to attract, develop and keep talented female employees at Microsoft.”
The day’s program included breakfast, featured speakers, panel discussions, a tour of the newly opened Microsoft Museum, a question and answer session with the Digital Diva, and a day of exploring offices at the Redmond corporate campus.
“There are many different kinds of jobs within technology,” Elliott told her attentive audience. “It’s a great area to work in, with a lot of different opportunities. You don’t necessarily have to work in an extreme technical aspect — there are positions in human resources, advertising, game design, and others.” The theme of Elliott’s presentation was “Technology Is Glamorous.”
Elliot also explained that she basically created her own job out of the desire to help people become more comfortable with technology. Earlier this month, Microsoft launched the Digital Diva Web site at http://www.DigitalDiva.com/ for that purpose. Each month, the site will focus on a different issue. The first topic is “Getting started in technology.” Other topics to be covered include privacy online, and how parents can keep up with their technology-savvy kids. The site will also provide product-specific how-to articles and offer the “Diva’s Dictionary,” a no-nonsense, plain-language explanation of computer terms. Girls in the audience said they were impressed by the idea of being able to have the flexibility to fashion a job to their own interests and skills.
According to research conducted by the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, by the end of high school only 5 percent of girls have an interest in the natural sciences, as opposed to 20 percent of boys. The Take Our Daughters to Work Day event is designed to help girls make informed decisions about investing in developing their skills, and to encourage them to pursue careers in technology.
For seventh grader Jaennae Straub, the program has opened her eyes to possible careers in technology, and successfully demonstrated that such goals are attainable and desirable.
“I like being able to spend this quality time with my dad,” said Straub, whose father Eric is the group program manager for Microsoft Games. “And it’s good to know that I can make good money and have fun at the same time.”