Jothi Ramaswamy, 17, of Mohegan Lake, N.Y., a senior at Lakeland High School, has partnered with corporations and universities to conduct more than 45 technology workshops for girls in grades 3-12, while connecting them to female role models who have had successful careers in science, tech, engineering and math (STEM). “Thirty-three boys. Zero girls. My jaw dropped,” Jothi said, when her brother mentioned the gender ratio of his computer coding class. She knew firsthand how valuable those skills are, because her mother, an engineer, had been able to step back into her career and support the family after the death of Jothi’s father. “It fired up my determination to even the playing field,” she said. Her response was to start a nonprofit organization called “ThinkSTEAM,” with an “a” for “arts” added to STEM subjects. “I realized that so many girls are incredibly artistic, and teaching them how to combine their own creativity with technology is the perfect way to encourage them to learn about STEM,” Jothi said.
After creating a website and assembling a board of directors, Jothi asked IBM to help her host a wearable technology workshop to show girls the intersection of technology and fashion. It was so successful that she collaborated with her school district to put on an all-day series of workshops for 75 middle school girls. So far, Jothi has organized more than 45 workshops in partnership with companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google, as well as with Columbia and Stanford universities. She also has conducted an annual contest inviting girls in five countries to create videos that encourage girls to pursue STEAM subjects. ThinkSTEAM now has student ambassadors organizing workshops for girls in eight states. In total, Jothi estimates that her organization has engaged more than 1,000 girls.