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Empowering the next generation of STEM Leaders

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Empowering the next generation of STEM Leaders

Kelly Salance

 
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Diverse and inclusive companies are more successful and more profitable than those companies that are not. The most simple search on the correlations between a diversity and profitability immediately return numerous, well-researched and substantiated reports correlating these two goals positively.

For instance: “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile, according to McKinsey’s report, “Delivering through Diversity. And the list of other think tanks citing these same benefits goes on and on.

Yet, the reality is the vast majority of the tech industry struggles with representation of minority groups, including women, which is why at the Zendesk Neighbor Foundation one of our core values is creating equity within our workplace, our communities, and society. One organization we partner with to help achieve this is Teen-Turn in our Dublin office.

Teen-Turn provides teen girls aged 15 to 16 years old the opportunity to gain hands-on technology experience through after-school workshops and two-week summer work placement in technology companies. Teen-Turn’s philosophy is rooted in the idea that when girls are users of technology, but are not involved in building that technology, their perspectives are not incorporated into the design. The end result is a myopic product that doesn’t reflect their needs. Given tech’s ubiquity throughout nearly everything we do, and increasing estimates that thousands of unfilled software engineering jobs will continue to go unfilled, balanced representation is not only necessary from a customer experience perspective, without it, economies risk becoming increasingly vulnerable.

So at Teen-Turn, young women are encouraged to experience, what it is to contribute to the very technology they use. In doing so, girls can better understand the importance of having a say in how a product that they use is developed, and why they might want to have a career in technology.

 Nikita and Greta with Zendesk staff at our Dublin Office opening.

Nikita and Greta with Zendesk staff at our Dublin Office opening.

Zendesk recently hosted two Teen-Turn interns, Nikita and Greta, to join us for a two-week ‘Teen-Turnship’ working with our software engineering team in Dublin. While at Zendesk, they met with each department to better understand the business and then focused the majority of their time on learning how to code using Ruby on Rails. Throughout the two weeks, they spent time learning the basics of the language eventually starting to build websites of their own.

The result: “It’s not boring at all!” according to Nikita. Both were surprised with how fun coding was and said they would love to take more computer science courses after they finish their certs this year. Greta said she found that learning about localization in engineering was really interesting and wants to explore that in her future classes. Meanwhile, Nikita’s biggest takeaway was that there are so many different roles in a technology company that it was the first time she considered that there is a place for her in the tech industry.

While we know there isn’t one simple solution to increasing representation in our industry, for many Teen-Turn girls, this internship is first time they can see themselves working in technology. It is one small piece that adds up to building a more diverse workforce. If you are interested in working with Teen-Turn reach out to them here.