Adriana Gascoigne is the founder and CEO of Girls in Tech, a global nonprofit organization whose mission is to “engage, educate, and empower girls who are passionate about technology.”
Founded in 2007, Girls in Tech claims 60 chapters with upwards of 50,000 members worldwide.
The organization’s focus is not just on women in professional roles. It also offers support to anyone with an interest in technology, providing women with a platform for growth in the field.
In this exclusive interview, Gascoigne speaks to TechNewsWorld about the organization’s purpose, its accomplishments thus far, and its future hopes and plans.
TechNewsWorld: What inspired you to start Girls in Tech, and what is its mission?
Adriana Gascoigne: I was working at a startup and was one of the very few women there. I’d look around the room every day and see that there was a huge problem with representation. I knew we needed to change the culture of the company to recruit more women and benefit more women, but we also needed diversity in product development.
If you have a diverse team, your product is going to be more successful. I think having a diverse group of people helps you to make a better product in the end, and I was striving to create a more diverse team so our customers could benefit from the end product.
The mission of Girls in Tech is still the same. Our tenets are empowerment, engagement, and education of women in STEM and tech. We focus on providing skills and a network so that women can succeed in whatever they want to do.
We want to serve as a support network and provide advanced skills and a learning environment so that women can be exposed to different opportunities throughout their careers.
A woman’s career trajectory takes many different paths. We want to make sure that we have the resources, educational platforms, and network to support women at many different stages of their careers and that they have mentors and role models to follow.
What are some of the positive effects that Girls in Tech has had?
Gascoigne: Domestically and internationally, it’s had a gradual effect. I won’t say it was immediate, but it’s a movement that’s really caught on. People are excited to support it and be a part of it. I think that in and of itself is increasing our numbers around the world. We’re now on six different continents, holding events in 36 countries and 60 cities. It’s a pretty powerful platform.
We believe that the programs we offer open opportunities and provide certain skills that women never thought they could learn. We’re continuously optimizing and making our curriculum better.
We have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on with the tech world. We know what they’re looking for, and we build the curriculum and customize it for the women within our network. That has set us apart from the rest — making sure that it’s top-notch, relevant material that’s relatable.
Do women have a different approach to tech fields than men do?
Gascoigne: I think a smart person is a smart person. In building a startup culture, though, women bring different things. In all of my years in the startup world, I’ve observed these differences.
Women are fantastic multitaskers, solid problem-solvers, and very good communicators and listeners. When you’re building a startup culture, you need someone who brings the tribe together.
When you start a company, those employees are going to be there for a lifetime. A commitment to employees, and an understanding of what makes them happy and comfortable, will impel them to invest more in the company.
If you have a woman on your executive team at a startup, your company will have higher revenues compared to a company with all male executives in the same area. If you have a board with a diverse group of people, the company will be more profitable.
How can young girls be encouraged to go into tech and STEM fields?
Gascoigne: It’s important to have role models and expose girls to women in these fields, whether they’re astronomers or computer scientists. They should be exposed to all of these women and understand that it’s a fun career path and one that’s making a huge impact on the world. If more women get into tech fields, more problems will be solved.
It’s important to expose girls to these success stories, so we facilitate that. We make sure we have role models who go to workshops that cater to the younger generation. Young girls can also participate in workshops, hack-a-thons, and code-a-thons. A lot of nonprofits like Girls in Tech provide these kinds of coding programs now.
I do put the responsibility on teachers and parents early on since they’re the ones who really help these youngsters. Schools also have to be open to adopting new curriculums and programs that enable girls to really test themselves.
What’s in the future for Girls in Tech? How do you see the organization and its mission evolving?
Gascoigne: I see a lot of growth in the future. I see a lot of corporations coming forward and supporting us. I have no doubt in mind that we’re going to grow to 100 cities in two years. Right now, we’re close to 55,000 members, and I know that we can double that number and get funding in order to deploy a lot of the programs we currently have.
In an ideal world, we pay for every single program for every chapter. Right now, we don’t have funding to support everything, but we support what we can. In a perfect world, we’d be able to pay for everything so our chapters everywhere can be paid for and covered by us.
We’ve built such a phenomenal board of 15 accomplished executives. They’re going to be helpful and take us to the next level, making sure we have quality control and metrics to measure how the programs are influencing women around the world, to see what impact we’re making at a deep level.
When the proof is in the pudding, it will be a lot easier for us to expand and scale and get more supporters.