Sacramento, Calif., Commits to Connecting Girls with Tech Careers

Under an alliance between the city and Microsoft, the two will hold events to help expose girls to a variety of technology careers and role models.

by / May 6, 2015
DigiGirlz is a one-day event designed to provide high school girls with a better understanding of what a career in technology is all about. Flickr/Jim Alden

The city of Sacramento, Calif., is taking an extra step toward encouraging females to join the technology sector.

Microsoft and the city recently signed a Digital Alliance, pledging to work together to provide technology training specifically to women and girls. Under the alliance, the company and the city’s IT department will hold events, including Microsoft DigiGirlz Days, to help expose girls to a variety of technology careers and role models.

“Women are under-represented in the technology arena,” said Sacramento CIO Maria MacGunigal. “A little extra effort in this area will be beneficial not only for the girls individually, but also for this community as a whole.”

According to the FCC, 77 percent of jobs in the next decade will require tech skills. Yet only a small percentage of young women are currently pursuing computer science education to prep for those jobs. The goal of the alliance is to stimulate girls’ interest in technology early on, before they decide to pursue another career field.

“There are 60,000 jobs that go overseas in the high-tech community because we don’t have the talent pool here,” said Molly Fitzgerald, Microsoft solutions specialist for the state of California. “There is a low percentage of women and girls going into technology. The goal of DigiGirlz is to help fill that hiring gap. It creates a win-win by both introducing girls to potentially lucrative technology careers and filling the gap many high-tech companies experience.”

The alliance is in-line with the city’s goals, including Sacramento 3.0, which Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson calls the “next iteration of the city economically.” The goal of Sacramento 3.0 is to make Sacramento a place that “knows how to tap into new technology to grow its economy.”

“Sacramento 3.0 focuses on three primary areas – innovation, next-generation infrastructure and inclusion,” said MacGunigal. “The city has been working on aligning its initiatives and work around those goals. The DigiGirlz program fits very well in the inclusion area. It’s a great way for us to connect with the community and connect girls from various neighborhoods with potentially high-paying jobs in the technology arena.”

“It’s all about creating a high-tech awareness in Sacramento and encouraging the community to take it to the next level,” Fitzgerald said. “The technology field offers the potential for prosperous careers and great flexibility. There is great potential for better work/life balance and higher pay, which is good for all women.”

MacGunigal said the city is planning to hold the first DigiGirlz program in September for up to 30 girls pulled from the city’s “priority neighborhoods,” which are currently being defined. The city will work with school districts to identify participants and determine how they will bring them into the program.

“This is the city reaching out into the community trying to engage our youth and make government and the process of engaging with it easier and more relevant to their lives,” said MacGunigal.

During the first DigiGirlz event, students will interact with Microsoft employees and managers to gain exposure to careers in business and technology, and to get an inside look at what it’s like to work in technology. The event will also provide girls with career planning assistance, information about technology and business roles, thought-provoking exercises, and product demonstrations.

In addition to DigiGirlz events, MacGunigal said the city plans to schedule other events focused on introducing students to role models in the technology field and exposing girls to the diversity of the technology environment and its career opportunities.

“We have a great workforce here in Sacramento that has many women doing a wide variety of things in the technology arena in a wide variety of fields,” said MacGunigal. “We want young girls to see and hear from them and get a sense of how they can succeed in technology too.”

Justine Brown Contributing Writer