I envision a world where family and neighborhood characteristics do not determine a young girl’s future career success.
Growing up in the Benton Harbor neighborhood of Michigan, I experienced for myself the trials of living in an underprivileged area, specifically when it came to education and career opportunities. Today, I see parallels between my town in Michigan and Jersey City, my home for the past 9+ years.
My mother was my biggest advocate and believed in me beyond measure. Her vitalizing encouragement inspired me to work hard to become the woman she dreamed I would be. Now, as a mother myself, I pour the same words of encouragement and positivity into my daughter, believing that she will manifest them in her actions independently one day.
In my experience, there are three major influences on one’s career: work-ethic, opportunities, and socioeconomic status. All three of these elements need to be addressed for someone to have a chance to be successful. Many women and minorities do not have enough opportunities or resources to enable them to succeed. And some women have a lot in life that starts them off in a position of lower socioeconomic status. It is our responsibility as community leaders to provide essential resources for these students.
I visited local schools and attended coding workshops while working as a volunteer with the Technology Education and Literacy in Schools (TEALS) Philanthropies program at Microsoft. I am currently a Computer Science co-teacher at the Henry Snyder High School, located in Ward F in Jersey City, NJ - one of the high schools that TEALs works with, a school that struggles to bridge the socioeconomic gap for its students. What I have realized, however, is that volunteering with TEALS is not enough. There is a sizable amount of work to be done in Jersey City toward closing the gap in opportunities between lower income neighborhoods and wealthier suburbs. There is well-established evidence that supports and echoes my firsthand experience spending time with Jersey City students.
According to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics 2018:
“74.1% percent of Henry Snyder High School students are eligible for free lunch under the National School Lunch Program compared to the New Jersey high school median of 19.2%. By this measure, Henry Snyder High School students are largely low income and rank 323rd in New Jersey for high school student family income.”
Without luck intervening or the deck being reshuffled, these children have a very slim chance at success. And among this group of children, young girls will face further obstacles from gender inequality and social pressure.
For this reason, I launched the Girlz Love Tech Scholar Program to mentor the talented young women in Jersey City and provide them with opportunities in career and self-development to pursue their dreams and conquer the ever growing field of tech. Inclusivity doesn’t start in the workplace. It should start in school-age children, so that a standard of equal opportunity is held from a younger age. GLT’s goal is to champion our ideals of equality and inclusivity and contribute to the overall re-shaping of American culture to reflect more equal opportunity for everyone.
What does this look like for our community? It means that graduates of GLT will more likely be on a path to shape our community and participate at the highest levels. Imagine a young woman today becoming the future mayor in ten years; or a new plethora of women entrepreneurs creating new technological innovation and new jobs in our region; or even more teachers with expertise in computer science so that our youth in Jersey City can be competitive to start cutting edge businesses.
All of this is possible if we take the step forward to start investing in posterity. -Dorie Gladney
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Girlz Love Tech scholar programs provide girls and nonbinary women with the confidence, tools, knowledge and support to enter, and flourish, in the world of technology!