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State Farm's Tech Astra Summit Seeks To Spark Girls' Interest In STEM Careers

Girls working at a computer
State Farm
Participants at a State Farm STEM summit in 2017.

Young girls across the country will have an opportunity to learn about the STEM fields at a virtual summit hosted next month by Bloomington-based State Farm.

State Farm will host the one-day virtual Tech Astra summit on Oct. 2 for girls in fourth through eighth grade across the country. The summit aims to educate students about opportunities in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The event will include interactive labs and meeting women already working in the industry.

State Farm noted a decline in women in computer science and said it wants to work to close the gender gap. In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today it’s only 24%, according to the national nonprofit Girls Who Code. The biggest drop off of girls in computer science is between ages 13 and 17.

“We want to give girls the knowledge and confidence that they can go into these fields and be successful, whether that’s for State Farm or for a different company,” said State Farm spokesperson Heather Paul. “But we recognize that this is important to our communities, to get girls understanding what the opportunities are. It’s something we have stood behind for many years.”

One of the event’s partners is Heartland Community College and its Challenger Learning Center where Tech Astra participants will learn how to create casein plastic using ingredients from their refrigerator.

However, Paul said the summit provides more than just hard skills.

“What’s really cool is they’ll also get a chance to interact with other young girls, all across the United States through this virtual summit, who are also excited, interested or involved in science and technology,” said Paul.

This is not State Farm’s first attempt at getting girls interested in technology careers.

In 1999, the Women and Technology employee group at State Farm collaborated with Illinois State University to create a technology conference for girls. ISU hosted the Millennium Girls event for years. In 2021, the conference changed to Tech Astra. The event will broaden its reach and extend to audiences beyond Bloomington.

The Tech Astra summit will be held virtually from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 2 on Zoom. Registration is available online until Sept. 18.

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Maritza Navar-Lopez is a student reporting intern at WGLT. She joined the newsroom in 2021.