Microsoft’s DigiGirlz brings together a remarkable line-up of successful women in IT, inspires girls to pursue STEM education

 |   Thornthawat Thongnab

Held for the first time in Thailand, the programme is a global Microsoft initiative to show girls the value of STEM

Microsoft (Thailand) Limited, recently hosted DigiGirlz 2017, a full-day programme with three inspiring sessions aimed to advise middle and high school girls about benefits of education in STEM, and encourage them to participate in STEM related hands-on workshops.

“About 40% of IT jobs in Thailand are held by women, however, most of these positions are in sales, marketing and related subjects, while the number of females in computing, coding and other technical fields is still low. This is largely because many girls opt out of studying science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as they are considered “boring” and not feminine,” said Chutima Sribumrungsart, Human Resource Lead, Microsoft Thailand in front of the audience of school girls and parents that attended the event. “If we don’t change the misperception that STEM is a “boys-only” playground, girls will be at a disadvantage in the future labour market. There is still a lot of work to be done, in Thailand and globally that requires cooperation from businesses, schools, and governments to ensure equal opportunities for everyone, but Microsoft is proud to be at the forefront of this mission and remains strong in its commitment to empower everyone on the planet to achieve more, regardless of who they are or where they are from.”

More than 120 girls aged 12 to 18 gathered at the event to listen to advice from industry leaders, mingle, exchange experiences and learn. After the opening speech, the girls heard from Satima (Prae) Lowatcharasonti, Head of Business Development, Airpay who lead Design Thinking session focused on creative approach to innovation.

My greatest joy of being involved in the tech industry is the ability to identify areas that need change and make these positive changes come to life. Making decisions and incorporating change is not an easy thing to do as it comes with responsibility – both to society and myself. But I have never regretted my decision to become involved in tech so I strive to do by my best. I see so many bright faces here today, and my heart swells with pride. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams, give yourself the opportunity to discover your true potential!” concluded Satima.

The afternoon session featured a panel discussion that brought in female executives from Microsoft and other companies including Dr. Tiranee Achalakul, Professor, Faculty of Engineering, King Mongkut’s University of Technology; and Nareerat Saetiew, Co-founder & Business Developer Manager, InsightEra Co., Ltd. The panellists discussed what motivated them to pursue a study in STEM and career in IT, what issues they faced along the way, and what advice they had for the girls.

Dr. Tiranee Achalakul, said “In the past, tech subjects were perceived to be reserved mostly for boys, but this is no longer the case in Thailand as I’ve seen an increased number of girls who are genuinely interested in studying STEM disciplines. And this makes total sense, as subjects like computer engineering and programming require a mixed set of artistic and scientific skills. To design a great software, just being a good coder isn’t enough. You need to approach this with a certain degree of delicacy, while remaining detail oriented and attuned to peoples’ needs and emotions. Computing is not a man’s job – it’s anyone’s job, so as long as you like it, don’t hesitate and go for it.”

Speaking about her journey to becoming the founder of one of the most successful social and content marketing analytics platforms in Thailand, Nareerat Saetiew said, “I’ve never had any regrets about choosing to study in the tech field. Technology isn’t boring, it’s quite the opposite, and the speed at which it moves, fascinates me most. A couple of years from now, we might be living in a different world surrounded by technological inventions that, I’m sure, will come from the bright minds of those, who are here in this room today.”

After the panel discussion, the girls were given a chance to experience, first-hand, what it is like to develop cutting-edge technology at Hour of Code workshop. Aiya Sukkho, a 12-year-old girl from Samsenwittayalai school, who attended the session said,” I love to study science and I am very interested in graphic animation. Learning about coding in this session was so much fun and have made me even more excited to find out more about computer science”.

The closing Student Innovator Session featuring young innovators who had real experience in national level STEM competitions proved inspiring to many attendees including Nirada Tanadumrongsak, a 15-year-old from Mater Dei College said “Listening to them sharing their experiences was very inspiring. They made me feel confident that if you really love what you do, you can achieve anything. I find math and IT challenging, but also fascinating, and this event inspired me to focus more on these subjects in the future.”

DigiGirlz is one of many Microsoft’s initiatives aimed to support diversity and inclusion, as well as offer technology programs that target youth. DigiGirlz event is held at multiple Microsoft locations worldwide, and is designed to provide high school girls with a better understanding of what a career in technology is all about.