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South Boston News
Female students program computer games. / May 02, 2018
Mackenzie Bowen and Kaitlyn Campbell, freshmen at Park View High School and members of the Mecklenburg County 4-H program, were among the 30 girls invited to Microsoft’s “DigiGirlz” program Thursday night at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center in South Boston.

The girls, most between the ages of 10 and 15, heard from women who work in information technology fields that are traditionally male dominated. Speakers included Kathy Brown, Operations Manager for the Microsoft Data Center in Boydton, Holly Elliott, a project manager at Microsoft, and Lauren Ryder, a data center deployment technician. “Women can dominate any industry [and] you don’t have to be a computer programmer to be involved in IT work,” said one speaker.

Ryder assembles and disassembles equipment, Elliott manages software programs and Brown runs the operations side of the Boydton data center.

They encouraged the girls to explore their interests, no matter the field, and never stop learning. While all three women said they want the most highly skilled professionals working at the data center, Brown said she encourages women to get involved in IT work.

After the talk, the girls participated in a hands-on activity, programming games and a circuit board kit especially designed to show young people what they can build with technology.

DigiGirlz is connected to research recently released by Microsoft that explores why existing STEM programs often fail to keep girls engaged in STEM studies and fields.

According to Brown, the number of women in the IT field peaked in the 1990s and today fewer than 10 percent of the employees at the Microsoft’s Boydton facility are women. Jeremy Satterfield, manager of Microsoft’s TechSpark Initiative in Virginia, hosted the event Thursday night.

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