She Started IT, an annual event spearheaded by the Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars at the University at Buffalo and a diverse team of local collaborators, including ACV Auctions the presenting sponsor, will take place on Saturday, March 7 at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.
Inspired by the documentary directed and produced by Nora Poggi that bears the same name, the She Started IT event is designed to encourage teenage girls to explore careers in the world of technology, computers and entrepreneurship.
According to Hadar Borden, Director of Blackstone LaunchPad and the WNY Fellowship Program, the concept for the event originated a few years ago, thanks to Nora Poggi having a connection to the University at Buffalo’s College of Arts and Sciences. “We wanted to bring Nora back to campus, so we hosted her for a screening and talkback, but we realized that a one-off event doesn’t have lasting impact.”
So Borden and a team of organizers put together an annual program to engage girls in 6th to 10th grade, who are receptive to new ideas and information, and invite them to explore the possibilities of technology.
“We’re trying to encourage these girls to think about how they can contribute and be the next innovators and makers, and we want to introduce them to some elements that will make them successful along the way,” Borden said. “All of the problems we’re facing in the world will only be solved by people who have diverse experiences and interests. It’s our job to engage everyone in the conversation – including our young girls – and help them figure out how they are going to contribute to this bigger planet.”
The event is free to attend and will run from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the library. The day will kick off with a welcome by motivational speaker Tamara McMillan, who is an award-winning lecturer, speaker, author and lifestyle coach, and founder of McMillan Empowerment Enterprise. Then the girls will watch a segment of the She Started IT documentary and local female entrepreneurs will facilitate a discussion about how women can persevere beyond the challenges presented in the film.
From there, the girls will get to work exploring idea generation, presentation, and interacting with professionals in the field. WNY Invention Convention will lead an ideation exercise where they show the girls how to take an idea and actually create it. Then, the Second Generation Theatre Company will lead the girls through a stage presence workshop.
They’re going to teach the girls how to present their ideas and how to carry themselves in front of an audience,” Borden said. “In today’s world, confidence is a big thing for teens. We’re going to try to provide them with tools help them push through.”
Midway through the event, the girls will sit down to have lunch with a female entrepreneur in the tech industry. With six to eight girls per group, the leader will facilitate a discussion on the things they experienced at the event thus far, field questions about their career and educational path, and make recommendations to the girls.
After lunch, the girls can head to the second floor of the library to explore an interactive exhibit with several of the groups involved in organizing the event, including University at Buffalo Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, ACV Auctions, Ingram Micro, The Foundry, Second Generation Theatre Company, Inc., Girl Scouts of Western New York, UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, McMillan Empowerment Enterprise, 19 IDEAS, WNY Invention Convention, and WNY STEM.
“It encourages girls to interact and see the possibilities of the tech world,” Borden said. “I don’t think we appreciate how we can all contribute to this growing industry. All of the problems we’re facing now and in the future will be solved in some way by technology, and the girls have to be part of it – they can’t be on the sidelines.”
Local entrepreneur Katie Krawczyk, CEO and Founder of 19 IDEAS, will close out the event by sharing her experiences and a sneak peak of Invest Buffalo Niagara’s newly released video highlighting women in technology. The girls will also be provided with a resource guide containing information on technology focused books, movies, camps and community events, so they will have some tools to expand upon what they learned at the event.
“I hope the girls will gain some excitement and be inspired, empowered and encouraged to pursue their dreams,” Borden said. “Maybe technology and entrepreneurship isn’t their thing, but they all need to learn how to look at the world and the problems they encounter, and solve them in a creative, innovative and resourceful way. And we want them to understand the importance of how you carry yourself and present your ideas. Regardless of what profession you go into, we need to know how to influence and gain support and create change.”
Those interested in attending this free event can register online through Eventbrite. Parents are welcome to attend the event with their girls, but if they are comfortable dropping them off, each girl will be assigned to a chaperoned group for the day. Event organizers also welcome groups to sign up, such as youth groups, after school program and Girl Scout troops. Girls who attend will leave with plenty of free swag, too.
For more information about She Started IT, visit the UB Blackstone LaunchPad webpage on the event.
To register for the event, visit the eventbrite page here.
She Started IT is sponsored by University at Buffalo Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, ACV Auctions, The Allstate Foundation, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Ingram Micro, The Foundry, Second Generation Theatre Company, Inc., Girl Scouts of Western New York, UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, McMillan Empowerment Enterprise, Buffalo Rising, 19 IDEAS, WNY Invention Convention, and WNY STEM.