Techbridge Girls started as a dream for the girls in Oakland.
In the late 1990s, there were exciting opportunities in the San Francisco Bay area with new tech companies starting up and world-class universities leading research in STEM. The possibilities were infinite, but girls in Oakland might not be part of these opportunities. Not because they didn’t have the interest or talent but because they didn’t have science and computer resources at school or role models to show them the possibilities in STEM.
What if Oakland girls had the chance to learn how science could solve medical problems that affected members of their families or how engineering could help clean the air in their neighborhood? What if girls had the chance to meet role models who were using STEM for social good? What if girls heard from their teachers, parents, and peers that they had what it takes to be a computer scientist or engineer or science teacher?
With the backing of Chabot Space & Science Center, I submitted a planning grant with Etta Heber to the National Science Foundation. The grant was funded; I talked with girls about what they wanted, met with teachers, counselors, and parents to understand how they wanted to be involved, and invited role models to share their input. Their ideas helped create Techbridge.
Techbridge began with afterschool programs just for girls. Activities were fun and hard like taking apart lawn mower engines, learning to solder, designing toys for kids who were visually impaired, and dissecting cow eyes. Role models helped girls connect these activities to careers possibilities. Field trips to places like Pixar, Google, Facebook, and Chevron made these dreams come alive.
The work was all about high touch and caring relationships, which made it high impact. The girl who was painfully shy in middle school gave the commencement speech at her graduation. The girl who was told she couldn’t be a biologist because she was blind became a docent at Año Nuevo State Park. The girls who learned so much from role models returned as role models.
With help from friends and funders Techbridge programs kept going and growing. With grants from the National Science Foundation, we shared lessons learned along with research and resources with partners across the country and around the world. We trained others on our “secret sauce”—role models who were trained and supported. We shared our curricula that we spent so much time and loving care developing. Equity, diversity, and inclusion were pillars for Techbridge Girls and we strove to make these principles part of the national conversation on girls and STEM.
It truly takes a village to build and sustain Techbridge Girls. Girls and their families, staff member, teachers, and role models supported the cause. Fantastic funders helped support our successes. The Stephen Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, Chevron, the Noyce Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation believed in Techbridge Girls and helped us serve girls in Oakland and expand in the Bay Area and across the country.
I could not imagine a more fulfilling life – to find work that empowers girls and to have a legacy that continues to this day. I am thrilled to be succeeded by a CEO who is writing the “next brilliant chapter” for Techbridge Girls. Nikole Collins-Puri is passionate about the mission and a compassionate and fearless leader. I couldn’t imagine a better choice by the board to lead Techbridge Girls into an exciting future.
We’ve come a long way since 1999. And we have a long way to go. The inequities and injustices for Black, Latinx, and other communities of color and the state of our environment require a new generation that leads with confidence and compassion and commitment to social justice. We need girls in Oakland and across the country to help save our world.
With Nikole’s leadership and the Techbridge Girls team’s passion great impacts are ahead. I look forward to Techbridge Girls realizing its dream and potential to reach a million girls by 2030. The future is brighter because of Techbridge Girls. I hope you will join me and be a champion for Techbridge Girls. Support them financially. Spread the word about their work. Help be the change we need in the classroom, college campus, board room, corporate office, and venture capital for Techbridge Girls and every girl.