The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota in partnership with Best Buy and uCodeGirl announce the opening of the application for the spring cohort of the Young Women’s Initiative (YWI) Dream STEM Lead program. This eight-week-long virtual technology entrepreneurial experience is designed to introduce young women of color, ages 16 to 24, across the nation to the possibilities in the “T” of STEM, exploring the intersection of social justice, leadership, and technology. Participants build leadership skills while connecting with female software professionals and tech entrepreneurs as their mentors, and foster young women’s’ problem-solving skills.
During the program, from Feb. 1 to March 22, 2022, participants generate ideas to solve socioeconomic problems in their communities using technology. With the assistance of their mentors, participants work in teams to design, prototype, and test solutions for the problems they identify as relevant to them and their communities. The program combines the foundational concepts of software design thinking skills, leadership traits, entrepreneurial mindset, and the important work of social justice. In the process, participants gain 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, communication, creative problem solving, and collaboration, all important skills in today’s digital workforce.
The YWI Dream STEM Lead collaborative was created to increase young women in STEM and mid-to high-wage fields and to harness the power of young women who are already leading in social justice. Participants will receive a stipend and have access to STEM networking and opportunities with mentors.
The program is designed for Black, Indigenous, and women of color, ages 16 to 24, including those who identify with one or more of the following communities: Black/African American, African Immigrant, American Indian, Hispanic/Latina, and Asian/Pacific Islander. Black, Indigenous, and young women of color who live in rural areas, identify as LGBTQ+, and live with a disability are highly encouraged to apply. U.S. citizenship is not required. Our definition of a young woman includes anyone who identifies as a woman, inclusive of transgender, gender non-conforming, gender nonbinary, and all gender-expansive people who experience gender-based structural harm.
As founder of uCodeGirl and the host of the training, Bethlehem Gronneberg said, “uCodeGirl is excited to begin the second cohort of YWI Dream STEM Lead with young women of color in partnership with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and Best Buy.” The initiative aligns with uCodeGirl’s vision of helping young women become the driving force of innovation in technology. “As software changes the way we live, work, and interact with each other, we at uCodeGirl are dedicated to helping see a world where the people who create and build technology products and services mirror the people and societies for which they create and build. That means diversity of thoughts starting from product idea generation, research, design, development, prototype, and up to testing and support,” she said.
The program is an example of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota’s direct investment in young women and gender-expansive people so they, their families, and whole communities thrive. Through its Young Women’s Initiative of Minnesota, WFMN is increasing young women on the pathway to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) jobs, and middle- and high-wage occupations by 20%. LaCora Bradford Kesti, WFMN’s Director of Community Impact said, “We invest in the power and potential of young women and gender-expansive youth who are not waiting for tomorrow, but who are leading today. Through YWI, we know young people learn better when they learn together. With direct mentorship and small group projects, Dream STEM Lead participants are developing new skills on the pathway to prosperity.” YWI Dream STEM Lead was designed with the input of WFMN’s Young Women’s Cabinet to meet the immediate and long-term needs of youth participants in increasing pathways to STEM careers.
“In the YWI Dream STEM Lead program, participants explore the various ways computer science can solve complex real-world problems to make the world more healthy, more safe, and more just. By connecting young women with relatable women mentors who are also software professionals, we hope to help enhance the self-efficacy of young women to explore possibilities in the tech industry so that they can bridge the gap between them and their full potential,” Gronneberg said.
Andrea Riehl, Associate Director of Social Impact at Best Buy, shared, “Through this program, teens can improve their lives through technology, think about STEM solutions to problems, and unleash the power of women and girls to solve big problems for communities.”
In closing the first cohort on November 9, Dream STEM Lead participants presented their prototypes virtually, in teams, and received an award for their participation and team effort to solve real-world problems using STEM skills. The panel of judges was Becky Newell, President of Levridge; Tishuana Wilson, Founder & CEO of TASCKQ; and Trevor Gruby, Principal Engineering Manager at Microsoft.
Inspire Her, one of the cohort’s teams, received an award for developing an impressive website to support women leadership, addressing the national gender wage gap. Their solution-based website focuses on college women and/or recent college graduate women, and posts services on practical career resources, leadership development opportunities, and access to paid internships.
Katya Medrano, an Inspire Her team member said, “The beautiful thing about solutions is that they are everywhere. Sometimes we don’t realize it, but those ideas that we have in our hearts and in our minds have a reason for existing.”
YWI Dream STEM Lead is now accepting applications for its second cohort, which begins February 1, 2022. Applications are due January 15, 2022. Apply to join YWI Dream STEM Lead and share with your network: ucodegirl.org/apply.