Friday, October 5, 2012

GHC12: Anita Borg Social Impact Award Winner: Cathi Rodgveller

This year's winner of the Anita Borg Social Impact is Cathi Rodgveller, founder of IGNITE (Inspiring Girls Now in Technology Evolution) Worldwide , she has impacted the lives of more than 18,000 women - and inspired many of us here today!

We had a wonderfully intimate session  - a great way to spend some time with an amazing woman! Her presentation was short and sweet, giving us enough background to fuel the fire for questions - and I discovered that this entire room was full of interesting women doing great work to inspire and mentor young women in technology careers.

Ms. Rodgveller started IGNITE on a Sex Equity grant 14 years ago in Seattle. She makes sure that the group stays lively and accessible by holding an event at least once a week. There are over 30 active chapters in Washington alone - and more across the globe! Ghana opened a chapter 5 years ago, and Legos, Nigeria has over 20 chapters - some of them the first programs in the area for girls.

She is tired of hearing schools saying that this outreach is not a priority, so if anyone can help set up this program for middle school or high school near you, she knows that the teachers would appreciate it. Ms. Rodgveller has been running this program herself for 14 years, and is willing to mentor anyone who can help start a chapter.  As a woman in industry, you can volunteer as little as 90 minutes for one event once a year.

We were fortunate to have one of the very first girls that went through the program at Nathan Hill High School in Seattle.  This girl, now a woman, said she originally wanted to be a veterinarian and considered herself totally technically unskilled. This long ago workshop inspired her to learn more and take a few computer science classes in college, and now she's about to finish her PhD at USC! It's amazing what an impact a few events could have on a young woman's life. Truly inspiring!

She encourages these events to be about stories, not lectures. Her book covers how to do this for each age and is geared towards teachers, using teaching models they are already familiar with. The program can be very inexpensive - merely the cost of a bus and a substitute teacher. It's designed to be cheap and easy.

If you're a woman in industry who wants to help? You can meet with a representative from the school to help get them started up and get them connected with IGNITE.

Ms. Rodgveller needs you - can you helps start up a local branch? You can learn how to do this yourself with the IGNITE Toolkit.

This post syndicated from Thoughts on security, beer, theater and biking!