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Igniting and Inspiring Girls’ Excitement in Technology Careers

BergerABAM senior project manager, Sue Johnson, sharing her career stories and excitement for engineering with Decatur High School students.

On 26 October 2017, Sue Johnson, of BergerABAM, sat on a panel and spoke to girls attending Decatur High School in Federal Way, Washington, as part of the Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution (IGNITE) initiative. Along with three other professional women from the University of Washington, Microsoft, and Amazon, Sue shared stories of overcoming adversity. How failing a math test and her teacher giving her the opportunity to retake it encouraged her to keep studying. “Don’t give up,” Sue encouraged. “Even when it gets hard, keep working through it and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Take opportunities when you have the chance.”

The panel answered questions, such as: What was your favorite and least favorite classes during your studies? In ninth grade, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? How much money do you make? Have you ever experienced sexism? What was your journey to get where you are today?

The panel members answered honestly, open-heartedly, and thoughtfully. After the panel discussion, the students split into small groups for in-depth conversations with the panel members. During these discussions, Sue showed the girls a variety of BergerABAM projects, discussed her favorite parts of the projects she led, and shared the joys and challenges she has endured during her career.

During the months of October and November, BergerABAM staff visited schools throughout the Federal Way School District to speak on panels. IGNITE’s mission is to create opportunities for girls to get involved in activities, which hopefully excites the girls for future careers in technology. The hope is to give girls a diverse perspective of what’s possible; introduce them to different paths, resources, and opportunities; and to encourage them by sharing real life stories of success and challenges from people they can relate to.

Women continue to be underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) work forces. Some of the greatest inequalities persist in the engineering, computer, and mathematical sciences. According to STEM statistics, only 17.5 percent of civil, architectural, and sanitary engineers are women and an estimated 1.4 million U.S. technology jobs will be available by 2020. With current graduation rates, the United States will only fill about 30 percent of those jobs.

Decreasing the gender gap in the STEM field for women requires a culture shift. As a company in the engineering sector, we believe it is important to participate in the empowering of these girls. Gaps tend to happen during the K-12 education, so this is a prime time to help introduce more girls to opportunities and resources, and guide them on how to best apply their talents, especially in STEM. For more information on IGNITE, visit http://www.igniteworldwide.org/.

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