Teen-Turn’s recent mentorship event at Huckletree in Dublin shows that changing the way young girls visualise STEM careers doesn’t need to be resource-intensive.
When the issue of diversity in STEM arises – which is often, since it is a hot topic among industry leaders and HR professionals alike these days – many extenuating factors that contribute to a ‘leaky pipeline’, or a pipeline that is lacking on the gender and ethnic diversity front, are mentioned.
They are often treated like insurmountable inevitabilities. For Teen-Turn, however, addressing the STEM pipeline is a quick and painless affair.
Teen-Turn works with girls from disadvantaged areas and matches them up with top tech companies for two-week summer placements. It also arranges extracurricular activities, the aim of which is to help girls visualise themselves in career areas that they may not initially think to enter into, particularly STEM.
Intervening when girls are young and before they have entered third level will, Teen-Turn hopes, help to abate both the ever-growing skills gap within the tech industry and to encourage more underrepresented populations to pursue these kinds of careers.
Before these placements, as many as two-thirds of participants said they didn’t think they would fit into a STEM career environment. After, however, 80pc said they would consider a career in STEM, with data science and engineering being the most cited areas. Evidently, the system works.
On 28 June, Teen-Turn hosted a panel event entitled ‘Mentorship and the power of influence on the next generation of women in technology’. Held in Huckletree’s lush Dublin 2 offices, it was chaired by Silicon Republic CEO and Inspirefest founder Ann O’Dea. The panel event sought to showcase the ins and outs of its mentorship programme, answer questions, and proudly put a spotlight on some of the amazing girls that go through the scheme.
One such girl is Tinu Atilade, a student at Larkin Community College on Parnell Street about to enter transition year. She previously completed a two-week placement with financial software firm Murex. Speaking along with her mother Olu and Laura Murphy, Murex head of operations, Tinu went through how her happy relationship with the programme began when the librarian in her school, Jenny, introduced it to her.
Tinu was not always sure she’d be able to do a two-week placement, despite wanting to – the programme is oversubscribed because not enough companies are currently signed up to take on mentees. Tinu spent time on a waitlist, resigning herself to not completing the programme. Then, mere weeks before the placement was due to start, a spot opened up.
“It was really amazing because the people were so dedicated to their work … It was such a great company, they were so friendly.”
Though Tinu was shadowing employees, her tasks were not limited to this; she also learned to code, completed her own independent projects and attended (and even presented at) standing scrum meetings. The short, intensive experience stoked her desire to study a computer science subject at third level, and she disclosed that she has already arranged to do her transition-year work experience with Murex.
Murphy beamed when she recounted her experiences hosting Tinu and with the programme in general. For her, it was slightly dizzying to be considered a role model. “I’m not a role model, I’m just a person who did computer science!”
Many of those who attended the panel talk and watched discussions unfold with rapt interest were representing some of the most distinguished tech companies around such as IBM, Zendesk and SAP. They immediately recognised the benefits of the programme (and were blown away by Tinu’s breezy, effortless confidence and eloquence as she discussed the benefits of such a scheme) but questions slowly trickled in about whether undertaking such a programme presented any challenges.
Murphy struggled to think of any drawback or challenge to taking on a Teen-Turn student. She said Teen-Turn “just sent out all the paperwork to us” and handled all logistical issues as they arose.
“[Tinu] is a credit to her school, and she’s a credit to her mum and dad,” she stated, going on to say that the programme was really a “win-win” for Murex, enabling it to both elevate the profile of its own fintech women while simultaneously taking practical steps to address future skills gaps issues that will undoubtedly affect not only Murex, but every tech company in the future.
Murphy went on to stress that anything a company puts in (organising tasks to keep girls occupied, assigning a liaison to each girl, covering travel and lunch expenses so none of the girls are out of pocket), they get a myriad of benefits in return.
“We are so blessed to be involved in this programme.”