At Maker Ed, we believe that every child is a maker. We aim to celebrate the inclusivity of making, and this month in particular, we are highlighting our work with female makers, supported by a boost from Google for Entrepreneurs’ #40Forward campaign. Encouraging more women and girls to participate in the maker movement is part of the ongoing commitment that Maker Ed has made to increase equity in the field.
Females have been makers since the beginning of time; yet, they are still largely underrepresented as entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders, and makers. If we want more girls to make things, they need to be exposed to more women who are making, who are innovative and entrepreneurial role models for youth. In the words of Marian Wright Edelman, “You can’t be what you can’t see.”
Maker Ed has targeted the recruitment of female mentors to establish young makers clubs in their communities to help girls prepare and present projects at a local signature event in their community, such as Maker Faire. In past years, a third of youth makers presenting their projects at the Maker Faire in the Bay Area have been girls. We want to increase those numbers across the nation by partnering with other youth-serving organizations committed to gender equity. The TechGyrls program at the YWCA in Silicon Valley is introducing more and more middle school girls (and high school girls in 2015) to the wonderful world of making; some of their girls work out of TechShop, developing skills and making projects that involve rainbow unicorns! As part of the 40 entrepreneurial communities participating in Google for Entrepreneurs’ #40Forward campaign, Maker Ed will implement new efforts to close the gap in 2014.
Oftentimes, girls make projects that solve community problems. Katia Castaneda, above, of Lighthouse Community Charter School created an electronic cane to help a visually impaired neighbor walk safely on neighborhood streets.Girls tell us they like making because showcase events at the end of a season are celebratory and focus on exhibition; they are not competitive, and a wide diversity of projects and interests are always represented.
One bright example is the Science, Art, and Math (SAM) Academy in Sanger, CA. SAM Academy is a prime example of how communities can work together with the city government, private enterprises, and philanthropic individuals to move kids in the right direction. In fact, the city of Sanger has proclaimed April “Maker Month” by Mayor Joshua Mitchell. SAM Academy, which also serves as a California Maker VISTA site with Maker Ed and is part of the Community Science Workshop network, fosters a grassroots community of curious and creative children and adults, where girls have no idea that they are “underrepresented” because they see each other making things as part of what is normal for everyone.
Maker Ed is working closely SAM Academy and forty additional partners to recruit mentors for girls, all of whom will be included in the National Girls Collaborative Project directory. Just last week, the NGCP featured Women in the Maker Community and has provided ongoing support to Maker Ed to identify volunteers and match them with community resources and needs across the nation. Maker Ed also works with US2020, as part of President Obama’s Educate to Innovate initiative to recruit STEM professional mentors.
Maker Ed avidly features women and girls in all of its literature, presentations, and social media. The images and stories we portray are as important as our actions. We are recruiting women to take part in our flagship Maker Corps program, which includes a robust, online Spring Development Camp and subsequent hands-on summer internship opportunities to work with kids and families. Last year, 50% of our Maker Corps members were women and our entire cohort directly represented the demographics of the US population. This year, we are targeting more women and underrepresented minorities to ensure a high quality pool of role models and mentors for our nation’s youth.
Mariah Villareal is a wonderful role model for San Antonio youth. She joined Maker Corps last summer and this year she is organizing a city wide OpenEd Jam that brings together activists, developers, educators, engineers, librarians, and makers from all fields. Mariah and our partners at SASTEMIC will provide a hands-on environment where participants can collaborate on innovative creations and uses of free and open education resources.
Over 90,000 kids and families interacted with Corps members like Mariah last summer. Most importantly, 25% of our Corps members have been hired into permanent jobs at institutions across the country. Maker Ed stands to make an incredible impact on those served as well as the future of America’s workforce.
Maker Ed continues to work closely with other organizations, including Girl Scouts of the USA, to close the gender gap through making. We are thrilled to be part of the Google for Entrepreneurs campaign and join with the 40 other organizations to move women forward. Today, women are starting companies at a rate of 1.5 times the national average, excelling in the classroom at record numbers and hold more bachelors and graduate degrees than men. Let’s remind girls that women outscore men in taking initiative and driving results so that leadership can look and feel differently in 2014 and beyond.
Many thanks to Google for Entrepreneurs for their incredible support! Let’s move #40Forward.