Aspirations-Awards
Apr 30, 2014 • By

Recognizing the tech talent of girls

Technology plays a big role in our daily lives, including our workplace. Because tech is so important to the way we do business, General Mills strives to encourage diversity in the field of Information Technology so that we can tap the full potential of tomorrow’s technological innovators.

This includes encouraging more women to enter the technical field, which has a well-documented gender ratio imbalance.

To further these efforts, our headquarters played host to a special group of tech-savvy young ladies along with their families and supporters last night, for the second annual Minnesota Aspirations in Computing awards ceremony. With support from our Chief Technology Officer Sue Simonett, General Mills helped celebrate the winners, connect them with IT professionals within their community and encourage them to continue pursuing their computing-related passions.

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Coordinated by the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) and local high-tech talent incubator Advance IT Minnesota, the goal of the Aspirations in Computing initiative is to recognize young women at the high school level for their computing-related achievements and interests.

NCWIT partners with organizations in each state to create local communities and recognize students at the state level. Winners were selected based on their computing and IT aptitude, leadership skills, academic history, and plans for post-secondary education.

I gave the keynote speech at the event. I spoke to the winners about identifying their passions and finding a way to combine them with technology to create fulfilling careers.

Then it was time for the awards. Wayzata (Minn.) High School computer science and engineering teacher Tika Kude was recognized with the Minnesota Aspirations Educator Award. She was followed on stage by each of the impressive fourteen student honorees.

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National runner-up Annelies Odermann talked about how she fell in love with technology, and the experiences she’s had that helped her confirm that it’s the path she wants to follow.

“Because of this award, I am more confident in myself and my abilities. I’m inspired to pursue a career in technology,” said Odermann, 2013 and 2014 award winner. “My mind has been opened to see that there are more places I can use my passion for technology than just Google, Facebook and Twitter.”

You can hear from Odermann – and Kude – about girls and technology education, in this video clip.

State winner Maria Sanchez Lopez bravely told her own story of growing up with a single parent in a new country. She spoke about her pride and determination in being a first-generation high school graduate and future college student, and described her dreams of one day being a CEO so that she can help people. Her emotional story moved the crowd, and reminded everyone of the difference that the Aspirations in Computing program is making in students’ lives.

The honorees represented the Twin Cities metro area, Rochester and East Grand Forks, and they left the ceremony with something else besides their trophies – their own Wheaties boxes.

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If you’re in Minnesota and know of a tech-savvy young lady, keep an eye out for next year’s Aspirations in Computing award application to open in the fall, on the Advance IT Minnesota website.

For more information on the Aspirations in Computing initiative, visit the NCWIT program website.