Culture

TechGirlz and Piktochart: Sharing a Passion for Girls in STEM

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Here at Piktochart, we have a history of being proponents of bringing more women into technology through our active support of STEM activities. Increasing diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers is a hot topic in the tech world lately, and many teams across the globe are trying innovative new ideas to advance the movement.

A report released in June 2013 by the National Girls Collaborative Project found that girls and boys do not significantly differ in their abilities in mathematics and science, but they do differ in their interest and confidence in STEM subjects. Male students are more than three times more likely to be interested in STEM majors and careers when compared to female students.

One way we’ve built excitement and opportunity around STEM was hosting a Rails Girls meetup at our headquarters in Penang, Malaysia. Rails Girls is a movement that aims to open up technology and make it more approachable for girls and women. The organization provides tools and a community for women to understand technology and to build their ideas.

“Piktochart’s headquarters is located in the second biggest technology city in Malaysia,” said Piktochart front-end developer LiewEan “Swallow” Lee. “It was the perfect place to host the Rails Girls meetup. These kinds of events provide girls who have an interest in coding a community environment to learn new skills with support from mentors and other participants. Events like Rails Girls are an excellent place to gather girls who like code to share their experiences and build confidence in their passions.”

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Last month, we decided to strike another partnership in this vital space. Today, women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer sciences, and physical sciences. We looked around for organizations who were working tirelessly to change this – and TechGirlz was one that stood out to us immediately.

“The TechGirlz non-profit organization empowers girls to become future technology leaders,” said Kelsey Hughes, a volunteer for the group. “Through educational workshops, girls explore different areas of technology, and it exposes them to the variety of careers available in the technology industry. The organization not only teaches girls valuable technical skills; it also gives them the opportunity to meet other girls who are interested in the same topics as well. It is a joy to see the girls working and learning together, and this is to ultimately help reduce the gender gap in technology careers.”

The organization develops fun and educational hands-on workshops, which they call TechShopz, as well as an annual Entrepreneur Summer Camp. These efforts aim to get middle-school age girls interested in different kinds of technology and demonstrate the many STEM careers options available. The programs also have a mentorship component, which is proven to increase the confidence of young girls as they explore STEM. TechGirlz enables girls to interact with professionals who have carved out successful careers in technology fields in an effort to empower them as they forge their own career path.

“I started the TechGirlz community in my area when I went to North Carolina State orientation with my oldest daughter and heard that the computer science graduation rate was only 12% female,” said Deirdre Clark, a TechGirlz volunteer. “I lived in the Philadelphia area for years, and found the TechGirlz organization there. Within the last 18 months, we have grown the organization from 0 to 71 volunteers and have held more than 20 hands-on sessions!”

Lately, TechGirlz volunteers have been bringing infographics into the workshops they host for young girls in cities across the United States.

“While infographic creation is a new topic for TechGirlz, it is certainly one we hope to repeat,” said Becca Refford, TechGirlz webmaster. “We’re visual creatures – infographics are a great way to share data in a visually interesting way.”

Becca says the organization landed on Piktochart as their main way of sharing our success numbers, quotes from organization participants, and testimonials from volunteers.

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(Source: http://www.techgirlz.org/techgirlz-survey-results-impacts-insights/)

“Humans are visual creatures,” she said. “I can’t help but think that’s why our infographics went over so well. Using Piktochart, we landed more views and shares of our content. The benefits are two-fold: not only are we spreading the word about our own cause, we’re also using infographics to further our message that technology isn’t just coding. It’s using technology tools like Piktochart to present well-researched facts in a visually appealing way.”

Kelsey and Deirdre joined our #PiktoTour event series and hosted their own in Raleigh, North Carolina in May 2016. The workshop was aimed at girls in grades 6, 7, and 8 – and that age range was very intentional.

“TechGirlz targets this age group specifically because research shows that by the time girls get to high school, they have already formed negative opinions about the field,” explained Deirdre. “Our goal is to reach them early, show them how cool and awesome it is, and fuel their desire to keep learning and growing.”

“I think the middle school age range is a really important time in these girls’ lives, especially as they prep for high school and begin to make decisions about their future,” added Kelsey. “The more girls can explore with STEM, the better. I believe it provides awesome base knowledge and makes them more interested in exploring even more options and possibilities down the line.”

Planning #PiktoTourRaleigh

Kelsey and Deirdre knew past workshops that included a graphic design focus were a big hit with the girls. To them, the natural next step was to apply design principles to creation of infographics using a tech tool.

“For our #PiktoTourRaleigh, we started off with a general background, and the importance and purpose of creating infographics,” explained Kelsey. “We had the girls pick a topic they were passionate about, something they could try to convey a message or tell a story about. The goal was to get the girls to use proper and credible research methods to gain their information, and then organize those facts into their infographic. I really wanted the girls to explore and learn the Piktochart program, since it was such an easy tool to create beautiful graphics in a short amount of time.”

The duo said they found that creating infographics using Piktochart was an easy way to introduce general graphic design principles and design thinking to the group of girls.

“Infographics are all about telling a story visually and truly appealing to an audience, and with the awesome tools like Piktochart, they are easy to build!” said Kelsey. “Not only do infographics provide design thinking values, but they are a great representation of how research, science, and math are related to design.”

“Infographics allow you to display information and are steadily being used by more and more companies,” added Angel Bird, a TechGirlz volunteer who focuses on publishing events and teaching workshops for the organization. “By using infographics, we are teaching girls how to format information in a simple and easy way for others to understand. It’s an important communication skill. In the workshops, we talked a little bit about graphic design principles, as well as the general format of infographics, and their purpose and value in the business world.”

Teaching Tech with Piktochart

Kelsey and Deirdre said they noticed something right away – the girls at the workshop were excited to dive into the program immediately and begin playing around. Some decided to use a template and others built their infographic from scratch.

“Each girl pretty much picked a different template, and it was great that they had so many options,” recalled Kelsey. “Switching out the colors, making text adjustments, and adding their own photos were all really intuitive for them.”

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It came as no surprise that the shining moment of the event was when the girls were able to share their projects with their classmates. The peer-to-peer support and interaction builds confidence in each of the girls, laying the groundwork for a strong, encouraging community. It’s everything we love about STEM-focused events for youth here at Piktochart!

“It was great to hear them talk about their process and why they chose to research their particular topics,” said Kelsey. “Seeing the girls light up when showing their work was awesome to see.”

“The fact that Piktochart’s interface gives them the confidence to not only research their ideas thoroughly, but a means to express themselves as well is huge,” added Becca. “Piktochart has been an enormous boon to our marketing team and to our students.”

We were so excited to join forces with TechGirlz that we sent a video crew to Raleigh, NC to film the workshop. Take a look at how the workshop went and how TechGirlz is using Piktochart to spread their powerful message:

https://youtu.be/MlKijNG2U4c

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