DigiGirlz 2017: Planting the seeds for STEM to flower

 |   Singapore News Center

Singapore’s DigiGirlz graduates all smiles at the “Adventure in STEM” event in July

As Singapore ramps up on efforts to realise the vision of becoming a Smart Nation, there is an increasingly pertinent need for the country to fuel a pipeline of diverse talents in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) fields. However despite the efforts that have been made, a 2014 manpower survey by the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) revealed that only 30 percent of the positions in technology companies in Singapore were filled by women.

At Microsoft, diversity and inclusion are integral to our vision, strategy and business success, as we believe that fostering an inclusive business environment where the best and brightest diverse minds come together is crucial for the continued growth of our business. Spurred by this, Microsoft launched several initiatives over the years to encourage more young women to enter STEM fields; and these include DigiGirlz – an annual event under Microsoft YouthSpark through which we invest in STEM education for secondary school girls to build a pipeline of future workers ready for the challenges of the digital economy.

A student immersed in the HoloLens experience

Through an “Adventure in STEM” themed DigiGirlz workshop on 28 to 29 July this year, Microsoft brought together young female students from secondary schools, parents and successful female leaders to inspire the next generation to go on an adventure in STEM fields. During the two-day programme, over 200 secondary school girls participated in a series of coding workshops, networking sessions with female leaders, and demonstrations of the latest technological advances such as the Microsoft HoloLens, at the Microsoft office in Singapore.

“Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organisation on the planet to achieve more. And when we say every person, we really mean everyone, including females all across the globe. This is a key tenet of the DigiGirlz programme, where we give secondary school-going girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops, to spur their interest in adventuring into STEM fields in the future,” said Ngiam Foong Chee, Director of Marketing & Operations, Microsoft Singapore.

Here are two main takeaways from DigiGirlz 2017:

Computational thinking an essential skillset in the digital economy

Computational thinking has become a vital skill that will open up opportunities for everyone in the digital economy. Defined as a thought process that allows one to break down problems and formulate solutions systematically – much like how computers “think”, computational thinking has come into focus as a fundamental skill for the next-generation workforce in every sector including technology.

As the key technology partner for Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) of Singapore’s Digital Maker Programme, Microsoft teamed up with a number partners to engage participating secondary school girls in a variety of coding and design thinking activities. Through interactive workshops that are centred upon building chatbots, or Minecraft by Coding Garage and First Code Academy, students were immersed in learning the thought logic of everyday technologies and took away basic coding skills and knowledge.

Students working together to learn the basics of building a chatbot

Being Future Ready in the Digital Age

Besides picking up computational thinking skills, DigiGirlz 2017 also held a panel discussion on “Future Ready”, aimed at equipping parents and teachers with a better understanding on the role that STEM will play in our future. Featuring a candid dialogue between Lesly Goh, Financial Services Lead, Microsoft Asia Pacific; Melinda Tan, Technical Account Manager, Microsoft Singapore; Stacey Albert, Head Regional Sales, LinkedIn Asia Pacific; and Grace Tang, Data Scientist, Uber Singapore the panel engaged in a lively discussion talking about future job market trends and future-proofing their children’s education.

Lesly Goh, Financial Services Lead, Microsoft Asia Pacific, speaking at the panel discussion

Following the panel discussion, parents and teachers participated in a technology showcase that featured some of the latest technology developments in the fields of financial services, smart cities, education, and healthcare. The day then culminated in the DigiGirlz graduation ceremony, where participants were officially welcomed to the Microsoft #DigiGirlz community with personalised certificates. This wraps up the programme for DigiGirlz 2017, and puts us in good stead to put forward a bigger, better DigiGirlz in 2018!