The pathway to careers in science, technology, engineering and math isn’t always clear for students. This is especially true for women, who make up only 28 percent of the STEM workforce.
“That stat is even worse for our women of color,” says Kendall Latham, education strategist at Dell.
Exposure to STEM opportunities can encourage more K–12 girls to pursue the field, but ongoing mentorship and support can help them build the confidence they need for a future STEM career, showing them the pathway and opportunities that exist for women in these roles.
Girls Who Game is one organization supporting K–12 students with STEM opportunities. Dell, Microsoft and Intel partnered to create this extracurricular program, which uses gaming to encourage students to pursue STEM. Through educational games such as Minecraft, students are taught critical thinking, collaboration, communication, problem-solving skills and more.
Mentorship is one of the group’s three pillars, and it offers multiple opportunities for mentors to connect with players through technology.
Mentoring Opportunities Vary for Girls Who Game Participants
Dell, Microsoft and Intel employees can mentor students through the Girls Who Game program. There are different levels of mentorship, which require different time commitments and different technology, depending on what the employees can offer.
“We wanted to make sure everybody had an opportunity if they wanted to be a mentor,” Latham says. “It didn’t matter how much time they could invest.”
The mentorship opportunity with the least time commitment is asynchronous and requires mentors to create a five-minute video on Flipgrid. In the video, they describe the path they took to their current role, including exciting moments and stumbling blocks. Participating students can access all the Flipgrid videos the mentors create.
There are also panel interviews, in which three or four employees share their experiences. After watching the panel, players are encouraged to ask questions. The participating students are coached ahead of time on how to ask good questions and engage with adults in a professional manner.
The final mentorship opportunity is a one-on-one mentorship and is offered to students who have experience with the program.
“When we first started, we had so much interest that we started to double up, and we had students with multiple mentors,” Latham says.
The panel discussions and one-on-one mentorships are managed virtually using Microsoft Teams.
“We have a full-time project manager who takes care of any technical aspects on the front end,” Latham says. “Sometimes she will do a prep call with the district, and she preps the mentors as well to make sure they’re ready.”
Technology Makes Games and Mentors Accessible to K–12 Participants
Many of the participants in the Girls Who Game program have access to devices to play the games and connect with their mentors. The program provides laptops to those who need them.
Girls Who Game operates as an extracurricular activity and therefore takes place on school grounds. “Because the mentorship opportunities occur at school and we’re not asking them to connect to Wi-Fi at home, most of the time students do have connectivity,” Latham says.
The devices, programs and connectivity give K–12 students the opportunity to learn skills and see themselves in a STEM career, opening the field to a wider group of future employees.
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