R.I. middle, high school girls learn about tech through Microsoft’s ‘DigiGirlz’ event at NEIT

GOV. GINA M. Raimondo speaks at DigiGirlz 2017, sponsored by Microsoft and held at New England Institute of Technology on March 17. / COURTESY NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
GOV. GINA M. Raimondo speaks at DigiGirlz 2017, sponsored by Microsoft and held at New England Institute of Technology on March 17. / COURTESY NEW ENGLAND INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

EAST GREENWICH – Approximately 150 middle school and high school girls learned about technology careers, participated in computer and technology workshops and had a chance to connect with Microsoft employees during “DigiGirlz” 2017.

Held at New England Institute of Technology on March 17, DigiGirlz was offered by Microsoft, the Washington-based multinational technology company.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo also attended the event, and shared the following statistic that she said she wants to change: Of the 42 percent of Rhode Island public high school students who took the Advanced Placement computer science exam last year, only 12 were female students.

“You can’t dream about becoming something that you can’t see … I want you to get fired up about your future, and I want you to start dreaming big. The world cannot solve its problems without women at the table,” Raimondo said in a statement.

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Donna L. Woodall, Microsoft’s citizenship and public affairs director for the Northeast, highlighted increasing opportunities for women in the technology industry.

She talked about how Microsoft launched the DigiGirlz initiative in 2000 – before some of the students in attendance were even born – to encourage high school girls to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math fields. Even today, she said women occupy just 6.7 percent of the technology industry workforce.

“We need to dispel the myth that this is a man’s job, because women will bring more fun, diversity and new ideas to the field. I want to see you in these roles. No matter the field – whether a dancer or a doctor – they all need technology,” Woodall said.

Several NEIT students presented seminars at the event, including Jayson Bennet and McKenzie Byrne, who presented separately on game design modules, and Saskiah Vargas-Walton, who discussed mechanical engineering technology.

Some of the technology-focused associate and bachelor’s degree programs offered at NEIT include game development and simulation programming, multimedia and web design, information technology, network engineering technology, software engineering technology, video game design, digital media production, and cybersecurity and network engineering.

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