Giving Back to Support Women in Technology

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By Mercedes Bankston

The holidays are the time when many of us take stock of the opportunities we’ve had and think about those who might not be as fortunate. Lucky for me, FreeConferenceCall.com has a culture that supports giving back to our communities year round, so I’ve been able to donate my time and some company resources to volunteer with Girls In Tech.

Why Girls In Tech

Girls In Tech was started in 2007 as a global social network organization focused on the engagement, education and empowerment of like-minded, professional, intelligent and influential women in technology. Studies show that women are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers and the numbers are decreasing. According to the National Girls Collaborative Project, women make up 47% of the total U.S. workforce, but are underrepresented in certain science and engineering jobs. For example:

  • 39% of chemists and material scientists are women;
  • 9% of environmental scientists and geoscientists are women;
  • 6% of chemical engineers are women;
  • 1% of civil engineers are women;
  • 3% of electrical and electronics engineers are women;
  • 2% of industrial engineers are women; and
  • 2% of mechanical engineers are women.

Fueling a Passion

My passion for technology started before I could read. I was three years old when my dad brought home our first computer, and I immediately fell in love. I spent hours glued to my keyboard learning how to program. Ever since then I have been fascinated with how things work.

I am really fortunate that my parents exposed me to technology at an early age and encouraged me to further my education and experimentation in the field. I know that not all girls have the same opportunity, which is what led me to volunteer for Girls In Tech.

Girls In Tech has opened doors for me to participate in other organizations that support the advancement of young women. Some of my favorites are:

  • Judging apps for Med App Jam, a tournament which brings together PhD and MBA candidates to create and monetize a fully functional mobile app related to the medical field
  • Being an executive women’s panelist for KidWorks, an organization that funds after school activities for underprivileged kids
  • Partnering with PeopleSpace and NASA on the NASA International Space Apps Challenge, a series of hackathons contests that sends the winners to present their apps to NASA

Breaking Down Barriers

My goal in working with the organization is to introduce girls to technology so they can determine their own level of interest or aptitude. My hope is some day we won’t need a separate organization dedicated to providing girls with opportunities in technology. However, until the statistics on women in STEM careers improve drastically, this organization remains critical.

I’m excited to spend more time with Girls In Tech throughout 2016 and support the organization’s activities, including a hackathon later this spring. Events like this give participants hands-on, real world experiences that will help them further their careers. I truly believe that giving back and being a mentor, particularly in an area you are passionate about, can make all the difference in someone’s life. By exposing these young women to a variety of ways technology can be used and showing them examples of real-life women in technology, those statistics about women and STEM-related jobs will only go up.

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Mercedes Bankston, Director of Business Solutions for FreeConferenceCall.com, the third largest conferencing and collaboration company in the U.S. and one of the top five in the world with more than 800,000 business customers connecting via conference calls and online meetings in more than 180 countries.

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