The Qld woman inspiring hundreds of girls to study tech
Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen, Sunnybank, Founder of Tech Girls Movement
TECH Girls Movement came out of the frustration of being one of the few girls in my tech degree, and then teaching tech at university and having very few women in the classroom. When the women were there they did very well.
I've always had a very strong belief that women are very employable in this space, but they're not coming through to get to that point. So, how do we solve it? The only way really is to go back to school and educate girls. We try to fill the gap for girls who don't have a great experience or have no experience with tech.
We've just finished out sixth year, and we had 700 girls come through this year, but by next year we will reach our goal of having 10,000 girls right across Australia and New Zealand come through over seven years. This year we took girls as young as 10 and the oldest is 16.
I'm amazed we're here but we are and we're not going anywhere.
The program is all about solving problems in your local community and using tech to do that. If you give them to tools to do that they just run a mile with it. And that's what's so amazing about the program is the problems they're trying to solve are problems around mental health and depression and family support and reporting domestic violence anonymously. It's quite phenomenal the lengths they're going to solve problems they care about.
We match all of our teams of girls with a female mentor who walks them through the 12 week program and meets with them every week. There's something really powerful about an adult taking a young person seriously. Often the mentors are the only woman working in their team or sometimes their whole organisation. One of our mentors worked for 11 years and hadn't worked with another woman in tech at all. We've had mentors say it's the best thing they've done all year, it changed their life.
I have been a mentor to Finn over a number of years. It's been really nice to see her grow over the years. She's not directly in the program right now so certainly it's a bit of an informal relationship now.
I met Finn's Mum before I met her and a comment she made one day to me was that Finn was the only girl in her school who wanted to do tech and she was kind of the weird girl in school because no other girls wanted to. But once she got into the program and got some of her friends involved, the whole grade at her school got involved - including about 25 girls - and it was kind of normal then.
Finn Geneve-Clayer, 13, West End, Student
I met Jenine through Tech Girls and my mum also met her before that - my mum works in tech too. I've been around tech all my life so the program just felt like a challenge and something I could explore and try out.
I started Tech Girls when I was 10 and now I'm about to turn 14. Back when I did it, it had only been going for a few years, so I was one of the first girls to get into it. And now from when I've done it it's grown so much, because back then technology was really a boys thing and we didn't really do it much at school. But now, because I've got a little brother who goes to primary school now, they do it so much more than when I was back there.
Even if you don't want to do something with technology, everyone's got something with technology - like a phone or computer - so knowing about it is really good. Tech Girls particularly has really helped with time management. There's so much to do in a short time. It also teaches you a lot more about being an entrepreneur, because anyone can be an entrepreneur at any age.
Jenine's been very good, it just shows you what you can do because she does it mostly by herself, and it just shows - particularly girls - what you can do and that girls can be involved in technology.
Some tech girls have gone on to do more tech stuff. I've gone to the library with Jenine and helped little kids - it was nice to see so many kids get into it. And right now I'm making an app with my little brother who's only five. I'm trying to do what Jenine did for me with my brother.
So many more young kids should really get into it, because by the time they're an adult or even a teenager technology is going to be a huge part of our society.
Dr Beekhuyzen will be running Queensland workshops in 2020 in partnership with The Academy for Enterprising Girls. Visit enterprisinggirls.com.au for more information.