Seventeen-year-old Lesly Zamora can take apart and reassemble a computer tower in less than seven minutes.
It’s a skill she discovered after joining the Tech Girls Club at her high school last year.
“I like to destroy things,” she said with a smile, quickly adding, “but I can also fix them.”
Instilling a passion for technology in girls like Lesly is exactly what Dallas-based non-profit High-Tech High Heels aims to do. In partnership with the Communities Foundation of Texas, it provides funding to non-profits and offers grants designed to close the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by sparking and cultivating a love for these subjects in girls.
The Young Women’s Preparatory Network, which oversees Lesly’s all-girl public high school in Dallas, is a beneficiary of High-Tech High Heels. Lesly attends Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, which has an intense focus on leadership and STEM.
“As a student of an all-girl school, I have been taught that women can make a difference in the world, and that is what I plan to do within the field of technology,” Lesly said. “Taking things apart is what I love to do. Not everything without a reason, but rather to know how things are put together and function as a whole.”
Lesly’s love of math stems from the fact that, “no matter what the situation, there will always be one correct answer, but there are many ways to solve the problem to find that answer,” she said.
“The interest that I have for science and math has grown immensely over the years,” she said. “Science amazes me because it explains how things are created.”
High-Tech High Heels, founded in 2001 by 30 TI women who wanted to make a difference in STEM, celebrated its fifteenth year in 2016. Building the pipeline of women in STEM continues to be as critical as it was when the organization was founded, said Heidi Means, its co-president and manager of our wafer manufacturing site in Sherman. Currently, women represent only 12 percent of the engineering workforce, and fewer than one in five engineering graduates is a woman, according to the white paper Women in STEM: Realizing the Potential.
“We believe the world will be a better place when there is a diverse, qualified workforce with more opportunities for women in STEM,” Heidi said. “Programs that High-Tech High Heels funds help young women to learn about STEM careers and become confident that they can excel in these fields. The gap for the STEM pipeline starts early; we support programs at middle school to high school levels to prepare young women to pursue STEM fields of study in college.”
“We’re all about closing the gender gap in STEM education and STEM fields,” said Ellen Barker, a board member of High-Tech High Heels and chief information officer at TI. Sixty percent of High-Tech High Heels’ board members are women who work at TI.
At TI, we believe in helping spark a love for STEM in today’s youth – and fanning the flame to help shape tomorrow’s innovators – like Lesly. One example of how we do this is the TI Foundation’s support of High-Tech High Heels and other organizations working to increase STEM learning among groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM fields, including women, Hispanics and African Americans.
Lynn McBee, CEO of Young Women’s Preparatory Network, stressed the importance of preparing more young women like Lesly to fill the STEM pipeline.
“That’s what Young Women’s Preparatory Network does – we get our girls in the game and arm them with what they need to persist, thrive and advocate for themselves in all aspects of life, especially their careers,” she said.
“Our girls are largely from economically disadvantaged families, and many will be the first in their families to attend college. We achieve 100 percent graduation from high school and 100 percent acceptance to college, with millions of dollars in scholarships.”
Young Women’s Preparatory Network works with school districts to operate its college preparatory schools. Its class of 2016 had 291 graduates who received a total of $41.9 million in academic and merit scholarships, Lynn said.
“The notion that women ‘don’t or can’t do science’ is totally inaccurate and to me, quite ridiculous,” said Lynn, who worked as a biochemist for 24 years before turning her attention full-time to preparing young women for careers in STEM and leadership.
Taking initiative to learn new things is a key focus at Irma Rangel, Lesly said. Her responsibilities in the Tech Girls Club include diagnosing and finding solutions for hardware and software problems.
Lesly interned at a computer engineering company last summer, and that experience made her “100 percent sure” that she will major in a technology field in college, she said. Her top three choices of universities are Texas Women's University, University of North Texas, and University of Texas at Dallas.
High-Tech High Heels supported Young Women’s Preparatory Network last year with $26,500 to help start an all-girl’s robotics club at Lesly’s school and to enable middle schoolers to attend a summer science camp at UTD.
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