VSA employees do hack—and empower young women to consider STEM careers

Two employees from VSA Partners’ Chicago office are participating in a special, one-day event called Girls Do Hack. Designed to teach young women about careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), the day features teams of four students and two professional mentors learning about the wide cross-section of careers available. Jacqui Gu, Senior Designer, and Jasmine Busch, Associate Director, Development, are excited to serve as mentors, who come from fields as diverse as civil engineering, computer science, ecology, graphic design and epidemiology.

“I decided to participate because I was never exposed to—much less encouraged to look into—STEM careers as a student,” said Gu, shown in the left photo above practicing her design skills while very young. “It’s great that there are programs like this for girls to dive into. Women are still severely underrepresented in STEM leadership roles, so I think it’s important to give our students access to relatable female professionals. If these events can have a positive impact and encourage girls to pursue other career paths, there’s no reason not to volunteer.”

“Web development has historically been a male-dominated field, and I want to be an example of the exception to the stereotype,” said Busch, shown in the right photo above with one of her earliest exposures to technology: her Walkman. “I hope to teach the mentees that STEM careers are varied—and I want to learn something new too.”

Teams select from a variety of workshops and activities, including mobile phone app design, architecture, astronomy, game design, 3D printing, robotics and much more. Mentees learn not only about these careers, but also skills that are relevant to most jobs, including problem solving, critical thinking and teamwork. Gu added, “I’m hoping that students realize they can enter STEM careers from a creative standpoint as well, not just math and science. It’s important for these girls to learn that creativity and the ability to ‘think outside the box’ is a very sought-after skill in every career.”

Girls Do Hack takes place at the Adler Planetarium on Saturday, November 9. Read more about the event at the Girls Do Hack website. And follow Busch and Gu on Twitter at @jasminebusch and @gujacq.