Raising a New Generation of Girls in STEM, Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Each October 11, International Day of the Girl is celebrated all around the world.

Established by the United Nations in 2012, the day brings into focus the needs and challenges girls face around the globe, championing girls’ empowerment and advocating for their human rights.

This year’s theme, “With Her: A Skilled Girl Force,” marks the beginning of a year-long effort to advocate for, and draw attention and investments to, the most pressing needs and opportunities for girls around the world to attain skills for employability.

That theme was echoed earlier this week by entrepreneur and author Dr. Cristal Glangchai, who was invited to speak at Rackspace headquarters in San Antonio by the employee-led Professional Organization for Women’s Empowerment at Rackspace, or POWER. Glangchai, author of VentureGirls, encouraged employees to raise up a new generation of girls (and boys) to embrace a growth mindset and entrepreneurial spirit.

Dr. Crystal Glanchai at Rackspace HQ in San Antonio.

Glangchai is also the founder of VentureLab, a nonprofit whose mission is to “create the next generation of changemakers and innovators,” through accessible, entrepreneurial learning. She credits her enterprising spirit in part to her father’s encouragement that she could do anything. From learning to change a car’s oil to playing with dolls, Glangchai was raised to challenge the notions about what girls and boys do at home, in school and, eventually in their own careers. Through VentureLab, she helps parents unleash the full potential of their own children.

Positing that we are in the midst of a “Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Glangchai emphasizes the importance of ensuring that tomorrow’s workforce is filled with leaders and visionaries from all genders, ethnicities and walks of life.

“Sixty-five percent of kids will have jobs that don’t even exist today,” she said. “We’re passionate about empowering kids, especially girls, to innovate, create, and discover their potential. We need to help them develop a mindset and ‘heartset’ that they can use for a lifetime, no matter what they choose to become.”

To help achieve this, Glangchai cited the need for mentors and role models, but also suggested ways parents can help their children develop a growth mindset and to bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, skills to life.

“Ask questions like ‘what if’ and ‘how…’ to help them explore additional possibilities and results,” she told the audience of Rackspace employees. “Remind them that impractical things are not necessarily impossible and keep an idea journal to capture those sparks of creativity.”

In addition to hosting talks from innovative thinkers like Glangchai, Rackspace works to help ensure young girls have access STEM-related education and programs through support of organizations like the Girls Scouts, Girls Inc. and Girlstart, plus co-ed efforts like the global Hour of Code project.

[Read more: Rackspace Hour of Code Expands to Train Teachers]

The company also doles out corporate grants on a quarterly basis, with more than 80 percent focused on K-12 STEAM programs. (The “A” is for art; in addition to STEM, Rackspace also supports arts programs.)

“When we’re considering programs to be involved with, we ensure they have a priority focus on increasing female representation in STEM,” said Allie Patterson, a community affairs specialist at Rackspace. “Metrics also allow us to measure the impact of our funding over time — especially in regard to girls and underrepresented populations.”

One recent example involves students from Roosevelt High School, located next to the company’s San Antonio headquarters. After receiving a grant from Rackspace to help students cover the costs of attending the Technology Students of America national competition, the team won three top ten spots among the 162 competing teams.

Rackspace Community Affairs Specialist Allie Patterson, far left, and volunteers with Rack Gives Back, far right, celebrate the winning students from the Roosevelt High School TSA team.

Rackspace has long been a supporter of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, which focuses on increasing women’s meaningful participation in STEM from K-12 through higher education and into the workforce. As part of that support, Rackspace  hosts the San Antonio-region’s annual Aspirations in Computing awards dinner, which honors the technological achievements of some of the brightest high school and college-aged women in South Texas.

“We know there are so many future women in tech who are just young girls today,” said Stephanie Lewis, a manager and vice chair of POWER at Rackspace. “We have to encourage them to keep exploring, and to keep innovating. Tomorrow’s world will be a very different place, and I think it’ll largely be because of those who will create it.”

In November, Rackspace will host the She Code Connect Conference on Recruiting and Retaining Girls in Computer Science, with special guest speaker Malavika Vivek, cofounder of Girls Make Apps, a U.S.-based initiative which she launched in 2016 as a junior in high school.

A program of Youth Code Jam, She Code Connect is focused on improving diversity by recruiting and retaining girls in computer science education. The conference is free and open to any educators, teachers, administrators, students, parents and industry workers who are interested in attending.

On October 11 and every day, Rackspace is proud to support efforts to expand girls’ worlds.

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PJ Lovejoy is the Engagement and Inclusion Program Manager in Rackspace's Talent Management organization. In this role, he is responsible for a number of Racker engagement, culture, diversity and inclusion programs. As head of the company's Global Inclusion Leadership Council, he guides leaders of the company's employee resource groups to increased collaboration across the globe. He has been the chair of Rackspace Pride, the company's LGBTQ employee resource group, since early 2015. PJ holds bachelor's degrees in Communication from Ohio State University and human resources management from Western Governors University, as well as a masters in Management & Leadership (Liberty University), and is currently working on an MBA (Western Governors University). PJ lives in San Antonio with his husband, Vincent.

1 COMMENT

  1. Thanks for the shout out, PJ! We’re excited to be bringing Malavika Vivek to the She Code Connect Breakfast, and can’t thank Rackspace enough for hosting it. Please encourage Rackers to join us. It’s important to bring industry to the table with educators and community to strengthen the work. Thanks for including the link to register in the blog post.

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