Challenge Model Practice
Engaging Women and Girls in STEM

Engaging Girls and Women in STEM

Principle VI: Civic and community engagement

2013 Challenge Submission


AT&T is a global communications company that offers one of the world's most advanced global networks.

“At AT&T, we recognize that innovation relies on a diversity of thought, which requires a diversity of voices, people, and experiences. AT&T is committed to closing the gender divide and increasing opportunities in STEM fields for young women, which is why we have contributed more than $97 million to support STEM initiatives since 1987." 
Loretta Walker
Vice President of External Affairs, AT&T

Maintaining these networks requires highly skilled staff, especially employees trained in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. To increase the number of STEM-skilled youth, particularly young women, AT&T has contributed $350 million, using both direct financial contributions and employee volunteers, to support STEM scholarship programs, science- and math-focused summer camps for at-risk youth, hands-on technology labs, elite robotics competitions at the nation’s leading universities, and more. AT&T employees volunteer for programs based on their own personal interests, and are encouraged to record their volunteer hours in AT&T’s corporate database. Below are three examples of programs they have supported or developed: the Girl Scouts, Girls Who Code, and Mobile Apps Made Easy.

How does this model practice work?

Girl Scouts: IMAGINE
AT&T contributed $1 million to the Girl Scouts to fund IMAGINE, an initiative designed to reach 6,000 young women and introduce them to a variety of career options in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields. Using an educational curriculum developed for the IMAGINE initiative, girls team with AT&T employees and other volunteers to engage in four flexible interactive activities and visual experiments, such as extracting DNA from a banana. These activities are designed to help students imagine a future STEM career and spark interest in taking additional STEM courses in high school and college.

Through a national competitive grant process, 18 Girl Scout Councils located in 16 states were selected to participate:

  • Birmingham, Alabama
  • Irvine, California
  • San Diego, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Jupiter, Florida
  • Mableton, Georgia
  • Elgin, Illinois
  • Evansville, Indiana
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Kansas City, Missouri
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • Miquon, Pennsylvania
  • Omaha, Nebraska
  • Pleasantville, New York
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Dallas, Texas
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • Spokane, Washington   

Girls Who Code
Launched in the spring of 2012, Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors. AT&T supports the organization’s Summer Immersion Program -- an innovative approach to computer science education, which is held in New York. Girls engage in 300-plus hours of intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with engaging, career-focused mentorship led by the industry's top female entrepreneurs and engineers.

In addition to AT&T’s financial support, company executives participated in the program to share their own personal career journeys and the importance of being proficient and confident in math and science. Sessions at AT&T’s corporate offices paired girls with these executive leaders for highly individualized coaching and discussion.

Mobile Apps Made Easy

Regarding Mobile Apps Made Easy:
“I was excited to see our next-generation engineers were working hard and having fun with their computers and phones. They are actually building an app to impress their peers! Thanks to the OASIS volunteers who showed the kids it's cool to be an engineer.”
Nancy Cai
Engineer, AT&T

The Organization of Asian Indians (OASIS), one of eleven AT&T Employee Resource Groups, developed an innovative program called Mobile Apps Made Easy that is designed to engage girls and boys in simple approaches to developing apps. The program focused app development on the message “No Texting While Driving,” and more than 100 AT&T employees volunteered in more than 500 hours to staff workshops in seven cities. Of those employees, 60% were first time volunteers. Students were recruited through emails and flyers circulated by the OASIS organization.

Through these efforts, more than 1,100 students participated in making “No Texting While Driving” apps, reinforcing AT&T’s support for STEM in the community and its leadership of the “It Can Wait” campaign. Importantly, the youth learned they can make apps, and that being an engineer can be fun. An overwhelming 95% of the attendees found the workshops “inspiring.” The number who think “engineers have fun in their job” jumped by 45%, and of those who think “making apps is easy” jumped 150%. The “No Texting While Driving” app is now widely available through AT&T.

How can I adopt this model practice in my workplace?

Girl Scouts: IMAGINE
With the help of its employee resource groups and volunteers, AT&T's commitment to Girl Scouts and the initiatives they support are scalable. AT&T’s Corporate Citizenship and Sustainability team handles corporate donations like the $1 million donation to the Girl Scouts. In 2011, two employee resource groups, the Women of AT&T and LEAGUE reached out to their members to raise additional money for Girl Scouts through AT&T's matching gift program.

Girls Who Code
AT&T's partnership with Girls Who Code can be duplicated by identifying a local organization with specific volunteer and funding needs. In this case, AT&T allowed Girls Who Code to use its corporate facilities during the eight-week Summer Immersion program. Each week, one of AT&T’s senior female executives was introduced to the girls to provide different perspectives about the business and the types of opportunities the girls could pursue. They also went on two field trips, including one to AT&T’s research labs.

Mobile Apps Made Easy
The Mobile Apps Made Easy workshop is designed to teach students the basics of developing a mobile app. This introductory three- to four-hour workshop designed for children between the ages of 10 and 16 combined lectures with hands-on training, required no programming background or pre-requisites, and was free of charge. Students brought their own Windows or Mac laptops or Android device and USB connection. AT&T supplied equipment to those who could not bring their own.

Part 1 of the program included an introduction to mobile development platforms and practicing fun and simple programming exercises. Part 2 focused on developing a more complex working application and learning about careers in developing mobile apps. Students made their own apps using MIT App Inventor. At the end of the program, students heard success stories of teens who made successful apps, and learned more about STEM careers.

OASIS is currently working on making this program scalable, and plans to double the number of trainees and volunteers and create a standardized curriculum in 2014. Additionally, training sessions, written ‘how to’ instructions, talking points, checklists for instructors, and Weekly Best Practices Sharing sessions will help other organizations learn the details of the initiative. 

View Ann Lehman's profile on LinkedIn


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