When I think about International Day of the Girl, I remember how my college basketball coach asked me to speak in front of a group of Fortune 500 executives. I had never spoken to top execs before, let alone a room full of them! I had my self-doubts, but ultimately, I chose to be bold. I shared my story of how at 5’5, I landed myself in a D-1 basketball program. Afterward, many offered their business cards and encouraged me to pursue an IT career.
To be honest, no one in that crowd of execs looked like me. But their interest in me gave me the courage to think, As a black woman, maybe I have what it takes to succeed in the tech industry.
Today, I am a senior IT analyst at Dell. My story has evolved since my college days – and since The United Nations declared Oct. 11 as the International Day of the Girl to “highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls’ empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”
The many stories being told to acknowledge this year’s #DayoftheGirl — both in the United States and abroad — will get you thinking about what girls face – and how far we’ve come.
One story I like is about Mo’ne Davis, the first girl to pitch a shutout and win a Little League World Series game. She said: “I’m kind of used to striking out guys now, but when I first started, a lot of people didn’t think I was good.”
Well, she’s more than good. Davis is profiled in the book, “Firsts: Women Who Are Changing the World” (Liberty Street), along with 45 other woman who are pioneers in their fields — entertainment, politics, sports, technology and more.
I think women share a strong appreciation for women like Davis who break down barriers and take on positions that may be more common for men. In doing so, they inspire and motivate others like them to bring their talents to new roles and industries.
I also think we appreciate women – and men – who remind us that we are good at whatever we put our mind to. I know I do.
As an African American female in the field of IT, I find it important that people recognize the value of more diverse perspectives. Women – especially minority women- need to be able to see others who look like them. That’s how we’ll see change. Women need to be empowered to go into the STEM fields and not be afraid that they won’t be taken seriously by peers and managers.
This year, the UN is focusing on the importance of a “Skilled Girl Force” for its International Day of the Girl efforts. Educated and skilled workers are in great demand, but STEM fields are experiencing a serious labor shortage, particularly among women.
That really hits home for me – and for my coworkers at Dell.
Recently, Dell Technologies announced its role in a new initiative launched by Melinda Gates’‘Pivotal Ventures called the Reboot Representation Tech Coalition. The collaboration seeks to double the number of underrepresented women of color graduating with computing degrees by 2025. This type of cross-industry collaboration is critical for supporting today’s generation of girls preparing to enter a world of work that is being transformed by innovation and automation. We talk more about this initiative here.
Women’s empowerment is a strong focus for Dell Technologies. My sister, an Enablement Lead for Support and Deployment Services at Dell, noticed this many years ago when she encouraged me to consider working here.
Now, I’ve been with the company for over 3 years and I volunteer as the lead of Dell’s Women of Color (WOC) special interest group within the Black Network Alliance employee resource group. Chris Fraser, Chief Responsibility Officer for Dell, is a supportive force behind our WOC group; she championed it from an idea to where we are today: a strong, group of females who support each other and our work at Dell. We work with organizations like Girls Inc. to increase opportunities for girls. This year, I was selected to be president of this group and recognized for my ability to ensure everyone’s voice is heard and passions felt through our goals and initiatives.
I’d like to think those skills stem from my own positive experiences of sharing my hopes and dreams with others – and in different ways throughout my life being reminded, “You’ve got this.”
That support mattered when I was a young girl shooting hoops with the taller boys. And, it matters now as I navigate my career.
The United Nations reminds us on its website, “If effectively supported during the adolescent years, girls have the potential to change the world – both as the empowered girls of today and as tomorrow’s workers, mothers, entrepreneurs, mentors, household heads, and political leaders.”
It’s a mission that goes far beyond one day. If you’d like to get involved, the website dayofthegirl.org offers several suggestions on ways to help.
My three suggestions for how you can support girls and women:
- Express your support for the women you work with. Champion your peers and also find your own mentors.
- Inspire young girls through 1:1 mentorship. Our Dell Power of One Mentor Challenge encourages anyone – including our employees – to spend one hour with one young person and talk to them about what it’s like to have a career in STEM and why they should consider it. See what kind of spark you can ignite!
- Get involved with your company’s employee resource groups to support an inclusive workplace – or, start your own group!
We have much to celebrate, and much work left to do! Happy International Day of the Girl to all the women and men who’ve supported me and girls around the globe every day.