The tech sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. This is because tech offers the chance to solve real-world problems and to innovate. For those who choose a career in tech, it is also an opportunity to leave poverty behind.
However, there is currently a huge divide in tech: the field is dominated by men, and women are still not even considering a tech career.
The digital divide between those who have access to tech and those who don’t is brutal. Throughout the country, there are people who have extremely limited access to affordable internet and even to modern computers. Girls in this situation fail to develop the digital skills that their counterparts are acquiring at a young age.
To make matters worse, there is often no way of linking potential teachers and mentors with young girls because internet connectivity is so poor and its cost is so high. In rural areas, public transportation is severely lacking, which further exacerbates the problem. The majority of those who do acquire tech skills leave their local communities, relocating to other regions or commuting to either the New York metropolitan area or the Capital District in Albany as there are no tech jobs available locally.
The lack of courses with modern and trending technology frameworks is another big problem that prevents girls from seeing opportunities that lie outside their traditional lifestyle.
The women in tech movement aims to change that — by putting girls and women in center stage.
Girls Who Code was founded by Reshma Saujani in 2012 - teaching girls not only to code, but what resilience, bravery, and sisterhood is. Women in Tech is another global movement supported by Google that gathers all people, networks, and organizations that are engaged in bridging the gender gap in the technology sector by Helping Women embrace Tech.
One such remarkable initiative was started by Dr. Yulia Ovchinnikova with Open Hub in the Hudson Valley area.
Who Is Yulia Ovchinnikova & what is OpenHub?
Yulia Ovchinnikova is a Russian-born American entrepreneur who is passionate about improving girls’ participation in tech. In addition to a master’s degree in computer science and applied mathematics, she has a PhD in economics. She was also one of the internet development leaders in Russia during the first decade of the 21st century. In fact, she was the first woman elected to the Russian Internet Council, through which she launched Cyrillic TLD and, most importantly, began addressing the digital divide.
Dr. Ovchinnikova’s unique educational background and work experience puts her in the perfect position to tackle the challenges women in tech face.
In 2014, Dr. Ovchinnikova followed love and relocated to Newburgh, New York. She was surprised to find many similarities between this region and Russia. Today, she still lives in the Hudson Valley, NY. Perhaps this move was fate, as it revealed to Dr. Ovchinnikova the challenges that those who live in rural America face. In particular, it highlighted to her why women and girls are underrepresented in tech.
Noticing all these problems, Dr. Ovchinnikova strove to bring a solution to the Hudson Valley. From this desire, Open Hub was born in 2017.
As a connector and entrepreneur, Dr. Ovchinnikova knows how to use technology to create opportunities and transform business. Open Hub is a community enterprise that uses a technology-driven economic development approach. By combining tech, entrepreneurship, and education, it has launched initiatives like #HudsonValleyCanCode and #HVTechFest. In addition, it has created numerous opportunities for collaboration. By matching professionals with young coders, participants are able to see their impact on real projects.
The Girls Who Code Program - Newburgh chapter
As well as being an infectious leader, Dr. Ovchinnikova is a role model for women in tech. To tackle the issue of bringing more women to the tech world, she launched a Girls Who Code program in Newburgh in 2019. This is just one of many ed-tech programs from Open Hub.
The Girls Who Code program started in conjunction with the first Hudson Valley TechFest and Youth Hackathon. This proved to be a game-changer for the region. The Newburgh girls who participated in the Hackathon developed a can-do attitude and a sisterhood along with their tech skills. They have passed on this spirit to subsequent cohorts, which has led the whole movement to go viral.
The Hackathon demonstrated that youth in the Hudson Valley is committed to solving civic problems in their area. Not only that: they have what it takes to face the challenges around employability and professional sustainability.
This has been an exciting discovery for everyone from the organizers to the young participants. They all see that they’re aligned in the same dream of making the Hudson Valley a better place to live and work. It has also become clear that technology will be the practical tool they need to meet their goals.
2021 Newburgh Girls Program opens doors on February 22nd
The Girls Who Code club continues today with the 2021 Newburgh Girls program. Once again, the program will be a partnership with the Newburgh Public Library and Rowley Family Foundation and will receive support from other stakeholders, including global organizations like Google. The initiative has the same objectives as always — to create opportunities in tech for girls, to impart leadership skills, and to help develop a sisterhood of support.
Like years past, the program will have an impact on much more than just the girls themselves. The initiative affects families, neighborhoods, and the Hudson Valley region as a whole. After all, even the largest changes have to begin locally — and then they often spread far wider than anyone would have imagined.
Open Hub hopes to use the initiative this year to send the message that dreams can come true.