High-School Girls Attend Summer Technology Camp at Microsoft

REDMOND, Wash., Aug. 5, 2004 — Seventy-eight girls will attend Microsoft Corp.’s fourth annual DigiGirlz technology camp for young women in grades 9–12, to be held Aug. 9–12. The program teaches girls about innovative possibilities with technology through classes, demonstrations and employee networking. The agenda of workshops, tours, speakers and networking opportunities has evolved as local and national interest has grown.

Tammy Savage, product unit manager for MSN®
at Microsoft, will present the keynote at this year’s event, followed by other executive speakers. The camp will feature a variety of product and business discussions, tours, and creative workshops in which girls will build and design Web pages, learn basic programming skills, and experiment with user interface design architecture. As in previous years, the objective is increasing consciousness about career options in scientific and technical fields. More than 120 girls have attended the DigiGirlz camp since its inception. The group this year will include girls with disabilities from across the state.

“Our goal is to break down stereotypes typically associated with careers in the technology field, to encourage these girls to learn new skills and broaden their perspective on technical education,” said Emily McKeon, a diversity specialist at Microsoft who runs the yearly event. McKeon is working on the concept of “DigiGirlz in a box,” which will enable subsidiary offices to establish their own technology camps. Microsoft is committed to expanding the program across the United States and to other countries.

Program visibility has increased in surrounding communities as more schools hear about the program. This year more than 115 applications were received. For the first time, girls will pair up with employees to experience the use of technology skills in a workplace setting. After seeing women with successful careers in information technology firsthand, several past participants have pursued high-school internships at Microsoft.

“While at DigiGirlz I felt the excitement, dedication and pride the women had for their jobs,” said Taylor A. Belsvik, second-year Microsoft high-school intern and former DigiGirl. “I saw programmers who were excited for their code to be used, developers whose imaginations were let free within their jobs, and leaders who inspired their teams to reach success. I experienced a work environment I wanted to see myself in one day and knew I could make that a reality. I’ve been able to grow as an individual through both my internships here, and I know I will be able to take that confidence as I step into college, and ultimately the work force.”

Women employees at Microsoft were instrumental in creating the idea of a program to encourage girls to pursue technology. Melora Zaner-Godsey, user experience architect for MSN, conceived of the idea along with a colleague, Asta Roseway, design research lead for MSN, and continues to serve on the core DigiGirlz team and run workshops during the camp. Zaner-Godsey said, “In the beginning, the girls were not very interested in a career working with software and computers. Many came to the camp with little exposure to technology. Yet, each year as these girls finish the camp, they express a whole new excitement and perspective on opportunities in this field. Several have told me that they’ve gone on to take computer science classes and gain internships at tech companies. They are learning how they can have a big impact on people’s lives in the high-tech field.” DigiGirlz from previous years have continued to find support and inspiration from role models after the camp concludes.

The Global Diversity and Inclusion team and a host of volunteers across the company have directed their attention toward helping girls make informed decisions about their education and careers. Their collective objective with DigiGirlz and other community outreach programs is to continue education about technical undergraduate degrees and careers, encourage a wide variety of students to investigate new opportunities, and build enthusiasm for computing.

Claudette Whiting, senior diversity director at Microsoft, considers the DigiGirlz ideal candidates to fill the pipeline for technical roles. “Attracting young women to the high-tech industry is a multifaceted issue,” she said. “Our shared responsibility in this industry is to stimulate interest and increase recruitment among minorities and women. We believe that having a diverse work force helps us meet the needs of our global customers and is key to the success of our business.”

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