I think women deserve to have a role in tech. I think women deserve to have choices in life. And they should get to be used to go into STEM.
Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen is a well-known advocate for technology innovation and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). She is an internationally acclaimed author of the Tech Girls Are Superheroes series of books and she has reached more than a quarter of a million children with her innovative approach to storytelling and STEM by her Tech Girls Movement Foundation. Jenine is creating leaders of the future through her national 12 week STEM entrepreneurship program. She has a string of awards, tv appearances and international research publications.
In a Nutshell: Tell us a bit about your job and what role technology plays in it?
I run two organizations. I founded them both. Technology is a massive part of it even before Covid. I have a virtual team of around seven people that work in all different parts of Australia, mostly mothers who work from home, which is awesome. We slackchat all day long, my assistant even gets my jokes on slack. I teach how to build technology, so I work with girls in schools and learning about how to create important technology solutions to solve local community problems. So tech is huge. About my job: every single day is different, that’s why I love it. I am working at home, but I have to get a lot of time on stage.
Where did your professional journey start and how did you get to where you are now?
Good question! I wasn’t a star in going to unversity. It wasn’t something I was meant to do, I guess, due to my background. But I managed to get through university, do a Phd. I became engaged in carrying girls in technology and STEM back then 20 years ago. I had great female mentors during my lectures all the time. They were amazing, they involved me in research why we didn’t have many girls in our degree program – 20 years ago, this startet 1997. So they helped me to get to where I am a lot. Because if it wasn’t them, I would probably don’t do anything about bringing girls into STEM. I had great mentors! I had great rolemodels! I’ve tried a lot, I’ve risked a lot, I failed a lot and repeat.
I’ve tried a lot, I’ve risked a lot, I failed a lot and repeat.
I got the degrees, I got the educational background as well, I studied for 10 years. If I can do it, so it can everybody else.
What is the greatest transformation in technology you’ve witnessed in your career?
That’s an excellent question. That is a real challenge. For me, personally, the compact disk.
When you think about ‘women’ and ‘technology’ what comes to your mind first?
They are very capable. I’ve witnessed that at every level. But that they are used to odd themselves out. I had a women that came to me after a keynote that I did and she said:
I am not sure, if I am good enough to be a mentor in your program.She had like a double degree master in AI, so yes, women often odd themselves out. We need to let them know and be rolemodels and show them many, many examples of women doing tech.
We always hear there are not enough women working in Tech. What needs to happen to change that?
We all need to do something, I guess, to change it, everyone has a role. Whether you are a parent, a teacher, someone who writes policy, someone who writes curriculum. I just finished writing a book, which is called
Five things you can do to engage girls in STEM. It is based on research, what I am doing. There are five things: Autonomy, creating unsupervised time, creating engagement, to get them to activities to get involved. It’s about computing with a purpose, it’s about actually understanding, why we need oversee its thought. So it’s those kind of things that we need to bring together. To have a growth mindset and developing confidence. So that are basicly the things that we can do.
What skills do you need for a career in tech (aside from the actual tech skills)?
They are not tech skills at all. There are things around being able to work in a team, being innovative, creative, being proactive. It’s around having a good work ethic, it’s around contributing in teams, putting all the people forward and share the tasks. It’s all about that kind of stuff. Soft skills, organizational skills. Everydaylife skills are so important, that we forget when we spend so much time online. Living in the present, being present.
How different would our world be if more women worked in STEM?
I think we would have very different technologies. So at the moment the technologies we have are very suitable for the use of male ones, because men made them. We would have more reliable technologies. A female developer in a male team once said:
The thing is if something breaks and they fix it we will be back in some months time and fix it again. If something breaks and I fix it, I don't have to fix it again.I think that’s an interesting insight from her. I think that’s where we would be. And I think it would be great for everyone. I think women deserve to have a role there. I think women deserve to have choices in life. And they should get to be used to go into STEM. That would be where the difference would be: that women feel empowert to have choices and not odd themselves out.
What and who were the influencers of who you are today?
A lot, I guess. I am doing business school at the moment and I am learning from so many amazing people there who are influencing me every day from webinars and meetings that we are having.
And family, I guess in some way. I think everything influences in some way. Hopefully I am influencing others in giving them choices in life.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your 14-year-old self?
You can do it! Yeah, you can do anything you want. It took me a long time to convince myself of that. And take time and chill out. Things like do Yoga, meditate, surround yourself by positivity, get rid of the noise.
Dr. Jenine Beekhuyzen is a well-known advocate for technology innovation and diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). She is an internationally acclaimed author of the Tech Girls Are Superheroes series of books and she has reached more than a quarter of a million children with her innovative approach to storytelling and STEM. Jenine is creating leaders of the future through her national 12 week STEM entrepreneurship program. She has a string of awards, tv appearances and international research publications.
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