Mircosoft helps local ‘girlz’ get digital

August 21, 2008

By Emily Keller

Company holds technology camp for girls

<a href

=”http://sammamishreview.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/digigirlz-20080815-a.jpg”>Teresa Lin of Sammamish with an instructor at Microsoft’s DigiGirlz High Technology Camp. Photo contributed

Teresa Lin of Sammamish with an instructor at Microsoft’s DigiGirlz High Technology Camp. Photo contributed

Teresa Lin spent part of her summer vacation from Skyline High School making an informational podcast about teen sleep deprivation. The activity taught her about technology as well as teamwork.

She was one of nearly 100 high school girls to attend the eighth annual Microsoft DigiGirlz High Technology Camp, which took place from Aug. 11-15 at the company”s Redmond campus.

Teresa, a 16-year-old Sammamish resident, worked with a team of girls to do Internet research, record sound with headsets and microphones, edit the recording with the computer program Audacity and then convert

the finished piece to an MP3 file.

Teresa, a rising junior, said she was eager to learn more about technology because she uses social networking websites like Facebook but does not know what goes on behind the scenes to make it run.

“I don”t know that much about technology, so I”ve been learning so much,” she said.

Microsoft offers the camp for free. Breakfast and lunch are provided but campers must find their own transportation. To qualify, girls must be at least 13 years old at the time of application.

Microsoft received 120 applications and accepted girls on a first-come first-serve basis.

Emily McKeon, senior diversity marketing manager for Microsoft, said the camp is heavily focused on breaking down gender stereotypes in the high-technology industry and is part of a series of Microsoft programs targeted at youth.

“We found girls don”t even consider a career in technology. When they think of

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technology they think of these geeky guys sitting behind a computer coding and they don”t think of teamwork and diversity,”

McKeon said.

According to the College Board, girls made up less than 15 percent of the students who took Advanced Placement computer science tests in the U.S. in 2006 while constituting 56 percent of all Advanced Placement exam-takers.

Teresa said she enjoyed the female-only make-up of the camp. “It”s pretty exciting I have to say,” Teresa noted.

The camp began with 35 campers and grew to 45 girls the next year. In addition to Redmond, Microsoft is also holding similar camps this summer in North Dakota, Texas, North Carolina, California, New York, Washington D.C. and Stockholm, Sweden.

McKeon, one of five Microsoft employees who started the camp in 2000, said one of the goals of the camp is for girls to use technology in a variety of professions such as

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medicine and law rather than steering them solely toward high-technology jobs.

Teresa is working to improve her technology skills for use in the medical field when she gets older. “I”m actually really interested in being a doctor so I”d like to see how medicine can tie into technology,” she said.

This year campers listened to guest speakers Katie Gearlds and Ashley Robinson, players for the Women”s National Basketball Association”s Seattle Storm team. They spoke about teamwork and dedication.

The camp also gives girls the opportunity to watch demonstrations and go on technology tours, attend hands-on workshops and network with Microsoft employees.

“People in Microsoft are really, really open to helping us learn as a group,” Teresa

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McKeon said she is thrilled to see how camp influences the girls, some of who sign up at the prodding of their mothers.

“It”s amazing to see the change in them,” McKeon said. “The last day they”re in tears. They want to come back for internships. They want to volunteer.”

For more information visit http://www.microsoft.com/about/diversity/programs/camps.mspx.

Reporter Emily Keller can be reached at 392-6434, ext. 242, or ekeller@isspress.com.
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