The Birth of a Solar System

Contributed by Michelle Gall

Digital Girl, Inc.I am the product of the public school system. Growing up with consistently high grades in math and science, I would ultimately end up attending Brooklyn Technical High School, one of New York City’s specialized public high schools dedicated to engineering, math and science. However, I was there by default and had little interest in such areas. Even though I maintained such grades, I never had anyone encourage me to be a scientist or an engineer, and really could not understand the value of the resources available at-hand to me.   

It wasn’t until I graduated from college with a degree in Business Management and Marketing and landed my first position out of college where I unexpectedly ended up managing our digital advertising, that I began to explore the possibilities of working in the tech field. At that time, the Internet was just exploding and the true value of the digital realm was just being realized. I became obsessed with all things tech and began to educate myself. I was completely captivated and in awe that I didn’t already know these things. One day, while sitting for a tutorial with the engineering department, I took a look around and realized that I was the only black, female in the room. Always curious, I wondered what a career in a tech field might look like and began conducting research. My findings were bittersweet. While these professions were well-paying, with women working in STEM making 33% more than women who don’t, the likelihood of finding someone with a background like mine was extremely low. Only 26% are women, 1 in 10 STEM professionals are minority women and 74% of STEM professionals are white. I also learned that while there is a lack of minority representation in STEM, the United States in general is lagging in production of STEM professionals. With half the workforce approaching retirement, in order to remain competitive, we must attract and retain a diverse, domestic workforce at home. With minorities projected to account for half of the nation’s population by 2020, a logical solution would be to tap into this under-resourced talent pool. 

Digital Girl, Inc.After dissecting this information, I saw the opportunity to take my Business and Marketing skills into the digital sector. As I began to implement this shift in my career, I couldn’t shake the nagging question of: “How can I get other people in my demographic to see this value too?” Thus Digital Girl, Inc. (DGI) was born. 

DGI, a nonprofit, was created with a mission to empower inner-city youth to pursue careers and studies in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We aim to be the bridge for students between education and how it can be applied to their future. We hope to bring awareness to students about non-traditional professions in STEM fields in order to close the achievement gap that currently exists in the STEM fields. We want to give inner-city students the ability to relate to the technology we consume every day and bring added value to the education they are receiving. Education without passion is like a candle with no flame - takes up space but serves no purpose.    

Digital Girl, Inc.Sometimes I wonder, where I would be if just one person might have brought to my attention that I had all the makings of a future astronaut. But then I look around the classroom, at all the children we are working with and realize, I am right where I am supposed to be. Among my own set of stars, my very own solar system and imagine that for the few hours we are with them, maybe we are their sun. Providing light and nourishment; allowing them to grow into all they can be. Helping to guide them through love and understanding because after all, I am and will always be the child that Digital Girl, Inc. serves. 

Michelle Gall is the Executive Director and Founder of Digital Girl, Inc. Digital Girl is a nonprofit dedicated to empowering underserved youth, especially young girls, to pursue studies and careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. You can read more about Michelle and Digital Girl, Inc. on their blog.