By Heather VanCura on Oct 21, 2015
Summary of events at Oracle on October 13 and 14, 2015 co-written with Kim Levin.
International Day of the Girl was introduced in 2011 as a result of the United Nations (UN) attempt to raise awareness about all issues concerning gender inequality around the world. It's a day when activist groups come together under the same goal to highlight, discuss, and take action to advance rights and opportunities for girls everywhere.
Oracle sponsored two events in 2015, one by Oracle Women's Leadership (OWL) Santa Clara, and one by OWL Pleasanton. The events were open to the community and Oracle employees as a Community Outreach and Leadership event to grow and inspire the local STEM community.
We find ourselves in a tale of empowerment, leadership, and confidence.
The main characters are strong, resilient leaders, and they are women. It’s International Day of the Girl 2015, and Oracle Women Leadership (OWL) leaders, Heather VanCura and Cynthia Chin-Lee, have planned a story-book afternoon for middle school girls and Oracle families.
“Did you know the first computer was programmed by a woman?” VanCura asks the audience of 100 girls and nearly 100 women. She explains that everyone creates their own story, and as the girls look ahead to writing the chapters of their lives, they can look to role models they will meet today at Oracle.
As if a room full of young girls eager to learn more about a future in technology isn’t reason enough to celebrate, we are introduced to shining individuals and their accomplishments. Sonali Ranaweera, a mere 15 years old, is the founder of Recycling for Smiles, a non-profit providing dentistry for disadvantaged children. Her story is one of responsibility and compassion that began when she received $100 from her parents (Oracle Hardware Engineer, Jeewika Ranaweera and husband) with the stipulation that it must be used to make a difference in the world. Sonali chose to pay for a cleft palate surgery for a child in need, but she didn’t have enough money. Not to be deterred, she raised the remaining funds through recycling, and her first donation to Smile Train blazed her path. With donations totaling $48,000, her examples of compassion for others, balance in life, and time management skills that are part of her daily routine, are priceless.
The next inspirational narrative introduces activist, Pavi Bhatter, a charismatic 15 year old junior in high school who created a circuitry workshop for elementary school children. Squishy Circuits sparks the imagination of 2nd-4th graders with a blending of art and science to create workable circuits. Pavi has toured the Bay Area enriching the future technology sector by putting young creative minds to work. Pavi offers her classes through Devoxx4kids.org and other venues.
The momentum of the day continues as we hear from Eric Coly, Founder & CEO of Le Dessein. With a mission of Fashion for Freedom, he is driven to raise money for the education of girls in Liberia by incorporating their talents into fashionable items. The industrious African girls sketch pictures and the images are embroidered on Le Dessein's clothing. 25% of the proceeds return to the girls to help pay for their education.
Following Coly’s powerful presentation, the International Day of the Girl participants are treated to an introduction of the documentary, Miss Representation, where we see a glimpse of the power of media images we see in America today. VanCura wraps up the presentations with her very own personal journey of climbing the ranks in her organization to a Director while also being an involved mother, volunteer, athletic enthusiast, loyal friend, and international speaker.
Moving to the second part of the afternoon, OWL volunteers take on supporting roles managing stations and offering words of empowerment to our female future leaders. The girls rotate through each table, hearing different stories. They learn about IEEE, Women in Engineering, how to author a book, and media stereotypes. They have a chance to make cards for Second Harvest Food Bank, dabble in henna tattoo art with seventeen year old artist, Taaylor Williams, meditate with Monika Goyal and Joy Lee. The girls are given the chance to try out Squishy Circuits and have an up-close look at Le Dessein's jewelry & clothing. They are led through Oracle Campus tours with Nancy Moreno, Sue Young, and Ramya R. Ramesh, and have the unique chance to see the Hardware Usability Lab with Denise Silversan.
Finally students are given time to interview Oracle women leaders, and present back to the group.
The girls from Buchser and TechBridge Middle Schools enthusiastically take part in each of the stations, learning as they go, and time passes much too quickly.
As a student named Vanessa shares, “technology is everywhere and it was great meeting good and smart people.” OWL leaders at Oracle are working hard to make sure these girls, and women everywhere, have happy endings.
OWL looks forward to many more events that encourage young women to get involved in STEM.
Slideshare with slides: http://www.slideshare.net/heathervc/international-day-of-the-girl-slides-2015