This week saw a summit geared especially towards young women take place online, in a partnership between UCCI and Cisco. This two-day event took place on 2nd and 3rd August and was a virtual STEM summit which gave 35 girls and young women from Cayman aged 12 to 18 the opportunity to hear from inspirational guest speakers, participate in hands-on practice with coding and other IoT activities, and participate in workshops to help them build their professional skill set.
Organisers said the summit aimed to inspire young females to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and aid in equipping the local, younger generation with digital skills to drive advancement in their careers. Last year, IT and networking company Cisco donated Wi-Fi hotspots to the Cayman Islands that helped bridge the digital divide gaps caused by COVID-19. The donation provided residents with free, public access to wireless internet at ten community sites across the islands, enabling them to help connect with family, friends and online resources.
Cisco said it had wanted to ensure all students had equal access and opportunity to attend, so UCCI advertised the event on social media, and students from across the three islands had equal access to the invite. Students applied using the online form to express their interest in attending and the first 35 young women within that age bracket were then notified of their success. Students who live in Cayman Brac received a travel scholarship to travel to the mainland to attend the event in person.
Event-goers heard from several outstanding speakers from Cisco and they also brought on board a confidence coach, Dr Nicole Steele, founder of Diamond In The Rough Youth Development Programme. The young women learnt to code with Code Ninjas, the world’s largest and fastest-growing kids coding franchise, with locations in the US, Canada, and the UK, who make coding simple and fun. They also got to chat with local Cayman Island leaders in STEM to understand the opportunities that exisedt on the island to pursue a career in STEM.
Cisco said it hoped the young women walked away from the two days with a better understanding of what STEM is and what it means to work in STEM. They hoped they saw how many different kinds of opportunities and jobs existed within the industry and felt inspired and excited about their career journey ahead.
“When we talk about bridging the digital divide, STEM education is that bridge for young women. Providing access to STEM education is how we will drive reinvention and regrowth for people and communities in countries across the world – it’s what Cisco calls our Bridge to Possible,” Shari Slate, Cisco VP, Chief Inclusion and Collaboration Officer, said. “The vision for this STEM summit is anchored in President McAfee’s belief that UCCI can be a nation builder for Cayman, helping accelerate digitisation of the nation and create pathways to prosperity for students. We want the women to feel empowered and confident, knowing that they are the future of the Cayman Islands. We want them to leave with the confidence that they are better equipped to take on that journey using the skills and knowledge transferred to them during the summit.”
Cisco was thrilled to inspire young women to pursue STEM careers that would empower their communities into pathways to prosperity, she confirmed.
“The Summit and Cisco Networking Academy are great examples of how we are working to close the digital divide that the Cayman Islands and the larger Caribbean face,” she said.