Last year the group #BuiltByGirls found its way into the spotlight when former First Lady Michelle Obama joined forces with the organization for the Let Girls Build Challenge, a project that encouraged girls to use the power of technology to create solutions to some of the problems facing the 62 million girls in the world without access to a traditional education.
Founded in 2014, the New York-based organization helps girls ages 15-18 get involved in technology, offering mentorship and guidance to help them learn about career opportunities that might be available to them, and get the training necessary to pursue their career dreams. And it’s working. A whopping 92% of the girls who’ve participated in #BuiltByGirls say they feel more confident to be a leader after completing the program. 90% of girls feel more confident to work in tech, and 88% are more confident in pursuing careers in business.
Traditionally a summer internship-like experience at a single company, the group is now launching a new program called Wave, a much longer, year-long experience that will pair 150 girls with a total of three mentors at three different companies like Spotify, Rent the Runway, and Giphy. The hope is to change the “boy’s club” of tech, and help qualified young women enter the workforce.
“The idea is long-term through the platform to build a pipeline of young women interested in technology, and pull together the best tech advisors in the country, to provide their expertise to the next generation of tech leaders,” says Tory Marlin, director of marketing and partnerships for the organization.
With Wave, girls are paired based on their interests with a mentor at a tech company for three months, visiting once a month for an hour to chat with that mentor in person, often at their office. At the end of the third month, the mentor will introduce the girl to two relevant people from their network, helping to grow the teen’s own network in the process. Afterward, the girl will go through the same experience with two additional mentors, ultimately growing those connections to three mentors and six additional introductions in a year. They’ve also been exposed to a tech company office, and have a bit of an idea on how that office works on a daily basis.
To help power the program, #BuiltByGirls has made a mobile app that will help guide meetings between mentors and advisees. With the app, the organization will provide profile information about both the girl and the mentor and facilitate conversations between the duo about everything from how to send a professional email to how to develop products and ideas in a way that makes them viable in the marketplace. At the end of the three months, the two will have also collaborated on solving a hypothetical business challenge, such as opening a new branch or rolling out a new product, for the mentor’s company.
That may seem like a small deal, but it could be a huge one. A good number of tech positions are filled through employee referrals. By building their network early on, these girls are getting not only a feel for an industry they might want to join down the line, they’re actually getting their foot in the door of the club, something that will come in handy when those same girls are looking for their first internship or even their first job when they graduate college. They’re also learning some basic skills that will put them a few steps ahead of the competition when it comes to applying for those positions.
“The goal was to really tap into this network of early to mid-level professionals that were experts at what they do, that don’t have a lot of time to offer, but have a ton of expertise to offer,” says Marlin. “The goal of Wave is to really focus on their area of expertise paired with a young woman in their field, in their role, in their company, and really guide their sessions together using their phone so the conversation is focused, meaningful, and has a tangible outcome at the end of it. It’s designed to be really meaningful on both ends.”
Wave officially launches in beta today with its first group of girls. In order to participate, teens currently need to be located in the New York City area. Girls can apply to be part of the next group, which will begin in May, on the company’s website.
“The idea is that we launch with a private beta of these 150 participants, and eventually scale from there,” Marlin says. “The way that we see this is that by 2020 we would have 20,000 girls participating with more than 90,000 connections.”