It is with deep gratitude that we share the story of our former Chief Operating Officer, Jennifer Wei, who made incredible contributions to Techbridge Girls during her 12 years with us.
We thank her for her leadership and for ensuring that our girls’ voices are heard. She now shares her thoughts on how to break barriers, encourage girls to persist, and lead with courage.
Leading fearlessly means leading with courage and confidence and persistence. As an engineering major in college, I saw the scarcity of women in those roles as a deterrent for some people. I know that when you feel like you don’t belong in the field, you can find it difficult to overcome such a big barrier. During my experiences with Techbridge Girls, I saw what girls go through at a younger age: the pervasive stereotypes throughout STEM, especially in engineering, and the lack of female role models in a very male-dominated culture. Research has shown girls usually lose interest in STEM around middle school, when they start getting very self-conscious or care what their peers think. Techbridge exists to try to maintain their interests, to fill the gap, and then to cultivate their interests as they persist to college and beyond.
When we pull girls together into a girls-only space and give them inclusive projects tailored to their interests and tastes, we make a difference. Seeing how we, at Techbridge, could help break barriers to success was so rewarding and meaningful. I learned so much during my 12 years at Techbridge Girls as we scaled up. Because I was the Chief Operating Officer (COO), I understood how to run an organization more effectively. Techbridge gave me the opportunity to understand what it takes to create lasting impact on a larger scale.
We live in a challenging climate right now, but it’s not a permanent state. With the media portraying more and more women as “cool” engineers in movies, TV, and pop culture, we can (and must) continue to dispel stereotypes. We must continue supporting all girls on their path to STEM careers and normalize seeing females in STEM so that girls develop the confidence to speak and the persistence to break the many barriers we face.