Empowerment is often defined as, “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” For young girls in our culture, it is sometimes difficult to find the empowerment to embrace their more technical side. But it is getting easier, and this is in big part to the work done by Minnesota Aspirations in Computing (MNAiC).
Organized in 2013, and run through the MN State IT Center of Excellence, MNAiC and its adjacent programs have empowered hundreds of young ladies to embrace their love of tech and pursue schooling and employment in our state’s growing tech industry. They do this through the teaching of in-demand tech skills, providing mentorship and peer support, and connecting students to internship and job-shadow opportunities.
Many young ladies apply to be a part of these programs, and not all of them make it with their first application. Acceptance is an entrance to a very unique pathway, which can serve them well for many years to come. By offering inspiration, and aspiration, the programs allow young women to see themselves in tech, identify the avenues they are most interested in, and gives them ways to get involved and engaged at a time when they are just about to make big decisions that will shape their lives. As Director Russell Fraenkel said, “[these] programs help them find their drive, and discover what motivates them.” And the talent pipeline that is created through these programs is incredible. “We truly find unparallelled tech talent in these ladies,” said Fraenkel. “The business leaders who sponsor and provide internships understand how important it is to retain talent in the state, and these programs allow us to form relationships early and actually make an impact.”
For those looking to get more involved, MNAiC is in need of business partners to provide meaningful internships and sponsorships. On their website, you can find information on the different ways to connect: sponsoring the awards ceremony, hosting immersive educational programming, or providing on-the-job training experiences through internships. All of these activities help to strengthen the program and continue to allow MNAiC to expand their reach to a larger community.
As Fraenkel said, “We all need to roll up our sleeves and do something to achieve equity in the workplace. In order to do that, you have to hitch your wagon to the right strategies.” The proof of their strategies are in their successes. MNAiC recently launched their Ambassadors program, where participants who have graduated from college and are now employed in their tech field of choice, give back by mentoring new participants who are just starting to figure things out. And empowerment comes around, full circle.