In the 1960s and 70s, if you asked a child to draw a “scientist,” fewer than 1% of the pictures would be of a woman. Studies show that American kids did not envision women as scientists. Since the 1980s, this number has increased to 28% -- an improvement, albeit slow. And this plays out in the number of women in STEM fields, including computer science where women hold fewer than 20% of the degrees. That’s why organizations like the Michigan Council of Women in Technology (MCWT) host Camp Infinity, an event where aspiring female 5th -8th grade campers can get a firsthand glimpse into amazing STEM career opportunities in web page design, programming and robotics. And, just as important, they met and talked to women who look like them and are thriving in these careers.
Blue Cross IT employees and leadership mentored aspiring youth at Camp Infinity, July 29 - August 2, 2019. Pictured - First Row: David Sepuha, Kathryn Ramsay, Grace Mohr, Nicole Rembert; Second Row: Sharada Thota, Andrea Young, Patrece Cade; Third Row: Kevin Monaghan, Nataki Vinyard, Vaneitta Goines Grace Mohr, IT Manager II, Enterprise Infrastructure Engineering & Operations at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Camp Infinity mentor understands the importance of this. “Young girls need to see women of different races and backgrounds who have fulfilling careers in STEM,” says Mohr. “The ability to problem solve, which anyone can do, is key in this industry. Young girls need to see women doing that, so they can begin to imagine what a future in this field can be for them.” STEM Mentorship Matters...in Education and Inspiration It’s no secret that mentorship matters. Experiences like Camp Infinity are important for energizing girls to pursue STEM degrees and careers, and carry that thinking into the future. “Even though I majored in Computer Science Engineering in college, I was never interested in the technical side of computers and coding. It wasn’t until I started being mentored and educated by my role models that I got inspired to pursue this career further,” says Sharada Thota, IT Manager I, Provider Systems and Wellness Care Management. “Opportunities like Camp Infinity provide girls with the mentorship and role models they need to get excited about STEM.” Differences Create Confidence for Girls in STEM Kathryn Ramsay, Systems Analyst I, Application Services & Strategic Partnerships, shares that building camaraderie and growth for women in STEM starts with embracing differences. “I found my identity as a woman in tech by taking classes with peers who shared common interests but may not have looked exactly like me,” says Ramsay. “When girls participate in these camps, their confidence grows and it’s like they grow a team, a ‘techie tribe,’ that connects them in the long-term.” Spreading the Knowledge = Creating the Next Generation of STEM Innovators Events like Camp Infinity give Blue Cross executives the opportunity to share the knowledge they’ve acquired over the years.
IT Director Amy Krause engages campers during the Camp Infinity closing ceremony. “I’ve been an IT professional for quite some time and, as I near the end of my career, I look forward to helping influence and shape the minds of young people entering this field,” says David Sepuha, Senior Director, Enterprise Infrastructure Engineering & Operations. “I didn’t have opportunities like this as I grew up; I had to chart my own course. Camps like this provide an outlet for education about STEM careers and the chance to see, or confirm, if this field is for them. That’s very important.” “Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity…Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” - Mae Jemison, engineer, physician and former NASA astronaut STEM-related fields need more young girls and women involved to bring an insight and perspective that can benefit all. Learn more about Blue Cross IT’s commitment to playing a role in making this happen by visiting these MI Blues Perspectives blogs: