New Hampshire Tech Women Encourage Girls to Pursue STEM Careers

Fewer women are entering the growing fields of science, technology, engineering and math, according to experts.

by Grace Pecci, The Telegraph / November 15, 2018
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(TNS) —  "Having girls in STEM will make the world a better place," Amanda Bastoni, director of Nashua Technology Center North, said Tuesday as she addressed a crowd of nearly 100 girls in eighth and ninth grades from various city schools.

"If you want to change the world, we need you," she added.

Bastoni and others on-hand Tuesday discussed careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM. She introduced the students to members of the New Hampshire High Tech Council's Tech Women's Ambassador Program. These officials visited Nashua High School North to talk with girls and encourage them to look into careers that might take them out of their comfort zones.

"You may be one of two females in a class, but what's important to know is we want you here. We are here to support you; we want you to be successful," Bastoni told the students.

Sarah Bee and Jenna Loranger addressed the students in the auditorium to start the day. "Women are very underrepresented in the STEM field," Bee said.

Loranger followed Bee's lead.

"Maybe women think that these jobs are more easily given to men, or that these jobs are for men, but I am here to tell you that is not the case," Loranger said. "We live in a time where employers are fighting for the very best talent they can find, no matter who you are. They are fighting for us and the ball is in our court."

Loranger, who works at iRobot in Bedford, Massachusetts as a technical account, said as a woman in the technology industry, encouraging young women to get involved in STEM programs is dear to her heart. Loranger attended the University of New Hampshire, where she began noticing her business classes typically consisted of mainly men, while her while her liberal arts classes typically consisted of mainly women.

Loranger said women are drifting away from STEM careers.

"One of the biggest challenges we face in the tech space is getting women involved. We need a diverse set of minds to come up with the innovative ideas needed to solve the world's problems," Loranger told students. "Bringing women into these jobs will stimulate innovation and ultimately lead to greater results."

Loranger continued, "Women, by their very nature, have what it takes to lead. For example, generally women have what they consider the skills of the future, which are empathy, emotional intelligence, collaboration ...these leadership traits are crucial to successful and growing businesses."

Once Loranger finished, Nashua Technology Director South Mike McQuilkin discussed women in STEM classes.

"As Ms. Bastoni said, it takes a collaboration between men and women from companies to survive, and women may never achieve equity in the workplace if they are the only gender working toward it. Men need to be part of the solution and that's something near and dear to me, and that's why I am here today," he said.

Students then moved to the cafeteria to conduct discussions in small groups. Hannah Benson, human resources manager at SilverTech Inc., told the girls it was OK not to know what careers they want, but to always keep open minds. She discussed what it was like being one of the only girls in some of her classes. Benson said she often felt like the smallest one in the room, but she eventually overcame this limitation.

Shannon Herrmann, recruiting manager for Alexander Technology Group, asked if anyone was worried if STEM jobs are boring.

"They are not," Herrmann said. "There are so many different jobs in technology."

Virmarie Rodriguez Santos, AVP Audit Supervisor at Bank of America, urged the girls to learn more about technology and think about how technology will impact their futures.

©2018 The Telegraph (Nashua, N.H.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.