Skip to main navigation

Catalogue Blog

When Women Have a Chance in Tech

By Elizabeth Lindsey, Executive Director of Byte Back

women in techWomen make up only 25 percent of the computing workforce in the United States. For women of color, this drops drastically, with just 3 percent of the workforce made up of African American women and 1 percent Latina women.

March is Women’s History Month: a time to celebrate progress, recognize deficits, and act for equality. Now is the perfect time to give a woman her start in tech.

In Byte Back’s 20 years, our demographics have never reflected the outside tech world. That’s kind of the point. In 2016, 417 women, or 61 percent of Byte Back’s student body, found empowering tech skills for free at Byte Back.

Byte Back offers a pathway of practical tech training and career services for DC-area residents, leading to professional careers and economic opportunity.
When women are offered the chance to learn and use technology the same as men, women access vital life opportunities, including high-paying jobs, healthcare, sexual and gender violence services, family care, and more.

Underserved, marginalized women who have never thought a career in tech was possible find it at Byte Back:

  • Betty faced years of unemployment and age discrimination. When she got computer training and earned a Microsoft specialist certification, she found a high-paying administrative job at the District of Columbia Superior Courts.
  • Jewel was a teen mother, surviving on government assistance and a job at a supermarket. She earned a certification and found her path as a tech administrator.
  • Lark struggled as a single teen mother and a runaway youth, and felt lost in her career and in life. She found direction and a career thanks to the education and care she received at Byte Back.
  • Olivia had unsteady jobs as a security guard and hairdresser and was homeless, sleeping in her car. Since she earned her CompTIA A+ certification, she has not only found a job but a stable career that allows her to have her own apartment and not just survive but thrive.
  • Lashaun, a current A+ student, works all night and shows up to her class in the morning. She is on her way to becoming certified and landing a job that doesn’t require night shifts.
  • Fatoumata was a recent immigrant from Senegal and a new mother. She got computer training and a certification to start her career and now confidently supports her son as a single mother.

Society told these women a career in tech wasn’t an option. But once they entered Byte Back’s doors, they found confidence and people who believed in their success.
These amazing women are not only changing the face of tech or changing statistics, they are part of a bigger change that’s needed. With technology, women can connect to the world and build connections to employers, friends, and family. With technology, women can move into jobs to support their families – tech jobs, white collar jobs, medical jobs. With technology, women can help their families teach their children, communicate with teachers, open up a world of knowledge.

Aleta computer 2 cropIt doesn’t have to be expensive, or complicated. So much can be solved by teaching women how to use technology. With a small investment in women’s lives, we can have a huge impact on social change.

Today, we urge you to find a way to support women, whether it’s as a mentor, a volunteer, or a supporter of a community organization. Byte Back is opening opportunities for women to cross the digital divide and to advance in IT careers. Groups like Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and Lesbians Who Tech are making sure that women are not alone in tech online and in real life.
If we all work together, we can make sure women have the power to use technology to change lives. Please help us continue to bridge digital gaps and gender gaps in tech – email me today at elindsey@byteback.org to become a mentor or hire a Byte Back graduate.
——-

Byte Back improves economic opportunity by providing computer training and career preparation to underserved Washington, DC metro area residents.
Through free computer and advanced IT certification classes, Byte Back helps graduates gain invaluable skills, experience higher rates of self-confidence, and launch successful new careers. Byte Back’s programs have provided a pathway to technology skill development and fulfilling living-wage careers for thousands of individuals who have struggled with underemployment, unemployment, and poverty.

 

Mentoring helps students gain access to College

FGCB photo

Only 46% of low-income students matriculate to college, according to the US Census. Most of these students are afraid they can’t afford college and that huge debt will burden them and/or their families. At First Generation College Bound (FGCB), we break down misperceptions about college affordability and accessibility, and strive to improve our students matriculation and graduation rates.

Our College Access program works with 150 first generation students annually. Countering the perception that low-income students must win a scholarship to attend college, our program welcomes students with a 2.0 or greater GPA and helps them tackle the financial aid process. Many students receive need-based aid assistance that they didn’t know they qualified for. Our students are ready to make successful transitions to colleges that are the best fit for them and can compete academically with their more affluent peers.

Most of our students must overcome long odds to attend college and obtain their degrees. Mentoring enables our students to overcome barriers which have prevented many first generation college students from attending and graduating from college.

In one-on-one coaching sessions and in workshops, we constantly instill college bound attitudes in our students. Our outstanding College Access Coaches develop customized plans for students, empowering them to surmount barriers blocking their way to their goals. Preparing them to do well in the SAT and maintaining a college bound transcript, we remind our students they can compete academically. We demonstrate attending college is affordable and accessible by showing our students how to leverage aid available to attend college.

For more than 27 years, our college access mentoring has ensured 93% of our students matriculate to college, twice the national average, and 64% of our students finish their degrees in four years, twice higher the national average of 33% for low-income students, according to the National Student Clearinghouse.

FGCB is striving to develop support services and training for other organizations and programs. We hope other groups will want to replicate our highly successful model. If more groups adopt our mentoring approach, we’ll come closer to realizing our vision: one day all Marylanders will have equal access to affordable college educations.

You can learn more about our work by visiting www.fgcb.org

Making a Difference with CASA of Prince George’s County

We make a real difference in the lives of foster children
male volunteer and teen

Every month is mentoring month at Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)/Prince George’s County, a nonprofit in its 16th year that recruits, trains and supervises CASAs for foster children.

CASAs are volunteers sworn-in by a judge to investigate a foster child’s needs and challenges – from academics to emotional well-being – and then report back their findings and recommendations.

Besides being an advocate, a CASA is a mentor. They are there to talk to the youth about whatever they want to discuss, take them on field trips – such as to a ballgame or an amusement park – and explain to them the importance of becoming a responsible adult.

Studies show that a foster child with a CASA is far more likely to thrive.
kid and adult living roomConsider this: More than half of foster children nationwide drop out of high school, increasing the chances that they will slip into poverty, homelessness and possibly even jail.

Yet upwards of 70 percent of foster children who have been assigned to one of our CASAs graduate, increasing the chances that they will enjoy a full and productive life.

We are proud to say that we make a real difference. We would like to do even more. Our goal is to have one CASA with each foster child. We now have only about 150 volunteers in a county with more than 400 foster children.

Help us celebrate National Mentoring Month by helping us help more foster kids.

#National MentoringMonth (3)

Please keep in mind that these boys and girls are at risk at no fault of their own. They simply were born to parents who, for whatever reason, were unable to care for them. Help us help them!

For more information, please contact CASA/Prince George’s County at 301-209-0491 or email kbundy@pgcasa.org.

Guest Post: Mentoring Today

As Mentoring Month draws to a close, we’re excited for today’s guest post from Mentoring Today! Since 2005, Mentoring Today has served DC youth both before and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community. Advocates and mentors from the Washington College of Law help youth with critical issues such as education, employment, and housing as they enter adulthood. Through these comprehensive, client-centered services, Mentoring Today strives to improve the juvenile justice system and empowers our young people to recognize their dreams and realize their aspirations.

About the Author: Sasha Garcon is a third year law student at American University’s Washington College of Law. Sasha is currently interning with Mentoring Today and hopes to pursue a career in juvenile defense.

A Mentor, An Advocate, And All That Is In Between

by Sasha Garcon

I have been a mentor in the past. And as a law student, I am developing skills to become a better advocate. But rarely have these two roles merged, until I started working with Mentoring Today. Mentoring Today is a DC-based organization that serves youth both before and after they are released from incarceration to support their successful reintegration into their families and community. Mentoring Today, through a partnership with Students United, a student organization at American University Washington College of Law, sends mentors to meet weekly with incarcerated youth at New Beginnings Youth Development Center in Laurel, Maryland. Once the youth are released, mentors continue working with the youth in the community by maintaining a mentoring relationship and by helping with critical issues such as education, employment, and housing.

“What is a mentor?” I asked my mentee on the first day we met. He explained to me that he had had a mentor before and that this individual gave him advice on life and staying out of trouble. I thought about this a little more and thought about how I wanted to define my role and my relationship with him. I knew that I was not there to tell him what to do and what not to do. My role, as I saw it, was to be a support to my mentee — to help him define goals and to help him in accomplishing those goals. While I wanted to provide emotional support and advice on how my mentee could grow as an individual, I also wanted to make sure that I fought for things that my mentee wanted or needed to grow as an individual. I wanted to be more than a mentor; I wanted to also be his advocate.

The idea of being both a mentor and an advocate may seem foreign but they work quite well together. I could see change in our relationship the first time I shifted from my role as a mentor to being an advocate for my mentee. My mentee had what is called a “Youth Family Team Meeting” (YFTM) meeting scheduled. At this meeting, New Beginnings staff members, service providers, and family members came together to prepare for my mentee’s release and to discuss what services needed to be set in place once he was in the community. In preparation for the meeting, I discussed with my mentee what to expect. We talked about his goals, what he hoped to accomplish in the meeting, and any issues that he wanted to raise. I reassured him that I would also be there at the meeting on his behalf to help make sure his goals were met and that he accomplished what he wanted to accomplish. As I said this, he stopped and looked at me with a look that I can only describe as pure shock. “What? You didn’t expect me to come?” I asked. His answer, “No.”

After this meeting, I could see how my role as a mentor-advocate shaped and defined my relationship with my mentee. It was encouraging to see that he was not only comfortable sharing his goals with me but also wanted to include me in his pursuit of accomplishing those goals. I had the ability to not only advocate on his behalf, but also to help him learn to advocate for himself. One cannot truly advocate for someone, if they do not teach them to advocate for themselves. It is the assurance that I will not only advocate for him as best I can, but that I will also provide him with the confidence to advocate for his own needs that I believe will truly make a difference in my mentee’s life.

Learn more about Mentoring Today at: www.mentoringtoday.org, or check out their Catalogue webpage for more ways to get involved.

Mentoring Monday

Today is Mentoring Monday around the District! There are thousands of youth across our region who are in need of a caring adult, a positive role-model, a friend to offer guidance about and spark interest in school, new activities and their future…in other words, a mentor. This consistent, positive relationship has a profound effect on mentees; in fact, youth who meet regularly with a mentor:

  • have better school attendance, a better chance of going on to higher education, and better attitudes toward school,
  • are less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, or engage in criminal behavior,
  • are more self-confident and have more positive social relationships,
  • are more likely to get involved with community/extra curricular activities and broader their horizons.

Though the need is great, we are lucky to have so many wonderful mentoring organizations as part of our network. So if you missed the Mentoring Monday phonebank this morning, consider becoming a mentor and checking out some of our charities below.

Capital Partners for Education makes a college degree possible for low-income youth in the Washington, DC area. Since 1993, CPE has connected motivated students from low-income families with the opportunities, resources, and guidance they need to graduate from high school and college and pursue professional careers. CPE provides students with a unique combination of one-on-one mentoring, individualized staff support, college and career readiness programming, and scholarships. By complementing the rigorous education with additional wrap-around services, CPE levels the playing field between our students and their upper-income peers, thereby breaking the multigenerational cycle of poverty one family at a time. Over the past 20 years, the organization has supported more than 500 students and has produced a 75% program completion rate, a 99% college enrollment rate and a 70% college completion rate for its graduates — more than three times the rate nationally and five times the rate in DC. Contact: Chris Lockwood, Recruitment and Selection Associate, mentor@cpfe.org 202-682-6020 ext. 221, http://www.cpfe.org

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates)For children living in foster care in Prince George’s County, MD and Fairfax County, VA, their Court Appointed Special Advocate may well be the only source of comfort and safety they have while they wait for a permanent and stable home. CASA gives a voice to abused and neglected children in the foster care system by training and supervising volunteer advocates and promoting the timely placement of children in stable homes. Volunteers are assigned to one child and commit to advocating for one year. Volunteers spend 10-15 hours per month meeting with their child and advocating on his or her behalf. In Hyattsville, MD, contact: Ann Marie Binsner 301-209-0491, pgerber@pgcasa.org , or visit: http://www.pgcasa.org/.
In Fairfax, contact Elisa Kosarin, volunteer@casafairfax.org, (703) 273-3526 or visit:http://fairfaxcasa.org/

Higher Achievement – Targeting academically motivated students at a critical juncture – 5th through 8th grade – and working with them in the “gap” hours after school and over the summer, Higher Achievement offers rigorous academic classes and stresses the discipline and dedication children need to succeed. A four-year, sustained academic intervention, it requires a serious commitment from its scholars and offers exciting bonuses in return: advanced intellectual discussions, university trips, and lectures on current topics. 100% of scholars improve by 20% or more on standardized tests, 100% of 2011 graduates advanced to college-preparatory high schools (90% to top choice schools like Gonzaga, Banneker, and Sidwell), and 93% ultimately head to college, compared to 50% citywide. Mentors teach a small group (3-4) of 5th or 6th graders in a core academic subject: Math, Literature, or an Elective Seminar (all curriculum and training provided), one night per week Mon, Tue, or Thurs, mid-September until early May. Serves DC and Alexandria, VA. Contact: Matt Thornton, Dir. Volunteer Management 202-375-7733 http://www.higherachievement.org/

Mentoring Today — Youth at the secure residential treatment facility for young males (New Beginnings) have frequent arrests to their names. When they return home, poverty, violence, and staggering unemployment await them. So Mentoring Today targets 17-19 year-olds before, during, and after re-entry. Through a partnership with Students United, Mentoring Today pairs each youth with a Washington College of Law student who can act both as confidante and zealous advocate. Together, they plan post-release goals, from earning a GED, to beginning vocational training, to finding a job; guided by a staff attorney, mentors also ensure that each young man receives the public education, health, and support services to which he is entitled. Last year, only one-third of mentees re-offended; none committed violent crimes. Imagine the change. Serves DC. Call (202) 678-9001 or find more here: http://mentoringtoday.org/get-involved

Mentoring to Manhood, Inc. – Last year in Prince George’s County, only 55% of black males graduated from high school. A grassroots mentorship nonprofit, M2M offers personal and academic support to African-American middle and high school boys (grades 7-12) in the county whose average GPA is 1.8 and most of whom report low self-confidence. Through weekly group mentoring and tutoring, mentees develop collaboration and life skills, enjoy team sports and community service, and come together for a Leadership Retreat. Offices located in Upper Marlboro, MD Contact: Rob Howze, 240-461-8474; rhowze@m2minc.org http://m2minc.org/

Mentors Inc. – Founded by a DCPS educator and parent of a high school student to combat DC’s low high-school graduation rates, Mentors, Inc. places at-risk students in one-on-one relationships with trained adults to help them develop their potential, encourage them to stay in school, and see that they graduate with a plan for the next step in life. While only 58% of the city’s seniors graduate from high school, 93% of the most recent Mentors, Inc “proteges” did, and 84% are enrolled in college. Mentors are paired with students ages 14-18, grades 9-12. Offices located in Washington, D.C. Contact: Remeka Blakey at rblakey@mentorsinc.org or 202-783-2310, http://www.mentorsinc.org/

Spotlight: Mentors, Inc.

Today we welcome Deirdre Bagley, Executive Director of Mentors, Inc. to Good Works, to congratulate them on their 2013 award from the Washington Post Charities, a fund of the McCormick Foundation! Deirdre has been at Mentors, Inc. for about five years, with a volunteer history in youth leadership and literacy programming, and a professional history with a variety of nonprofit associations from higher education to environmental advocacy. Deirdre is at home with teen mentoring, combining her nonprofit leadership experience and personal mission interest.

1. What motivated you to begin working with Mentors, Inc? What need does it fulfill and how are you (and your organization) working towards meeting it?

I reached a point in my professional career where I felt driven to combine my professional leadership with my personal interest in working with youth, and find an organization that was well respected for their work. That led me to Mentors, Inc., which helps Washington, D.C. high school teens graduate from high school to combat the abysmal drop-out rates locally. We pair teens with a mentor to help expand their universe — internally and externally — to see and pursue what’s possible for their lives.

2. What exciting change or innovation is on your mind?

Partnerships that really work and truly enhance all partners’ capacity! We’ve begun working with the United Way and City Year at the Kelly Miller Middle School on an 8th to 9th grade transition project to improve 8th graders’ success with their new high school experience, to prevent them from joining the ranks of teens who drop out in 9th grade. City Year was already in the school with strong student, administration, and family relationships; the United Way was bringing corporate partners in as volunteer mentors, and we manage mentoring intake, matching, and support. We’re looking forward to following how these young teens do when they make the transition. Because all partners are doing what they do best and not duplicating others’ work, the project has great potential for replication.

3. Who inspires you (in the philanthropy world or otherwise)? Do you have a hero?

I don’t have heroes, but there are people who live their lives in ways I admire. Our teenagers inspire me. They persist and dream on, in spite of living in high poverty areas, attending under-performing schools, and having no family history of college-going. I admire young philanthropists who are donors and want to be connected to the causes they donate to, but don’t care to see their name displayed on a marble wall. I admire people who break out of traditional molds to do something new and positive in big and small ways. I admire children — they read the world and ask questions or provide solutions without the filter of experience, and say insightful things that adults have long lost sight of.

4. What is the single greatest challenge that your organization faces (besides finances) and how are you dealing with this challenge?

Growing our organization. Garnering enough volunteer support to meet the number of teens who want mentors; and non-mentor volunteer leadership to actively move our recruitment, giving, and programming forward.

5. What advice do you have for other people in your position?

Surround yourself with smart, positive, enthusiastic people! They help moving the world a lot less difficult and a lot more fun.

6. What’s next/coming up for you?

Next, is building our internal circle of supporters, including mentors, non-mentor volunteers, board members, and alumni (mentors and students) to help even more teens get match with mentors, graduate, persist in college, and become the people they were born to be.

7. Congratulations on receiving an award from the Washington Post Charities! What does this award mean to you?

Mentors, Inc. is a one-program operation, focused solely on matching teens with mentors to help them graduate and aspire to higher education. At least 90% of our high school seniors graduate (100% for the last two years), and at least 85% go on to college. Compared to 60% and 5-28% locally, this is amazing, particularly since we have no minimum requirement to participate in our program — only student motivation. The Washington Post Charities grant is already helping us serve more students, and advancing our 8th to 9th grade transition project which helps reduce the drop-out rate in D.C. We’re so pleased they chose our mission, and organization, to support!

Guest Post: Empowered Women International

Empowered Women International creates entrepreneurs and community leaders through women’s empowerment. Marga C. Fripp, the Founder and President, shares Three Reasons to Mentor a Woman, while EWI’s Media and Outreach Intern Jeremy Brandt-Vorel shares the stories of two women active in EWI’s programs. Both articles were originally published on EWI’s blog.

Why mentor a woman? Well, there are many reasons, but I want to share 3 compelling aspects that move most of our mentors.

Passion is infectious.

I often hear our mentors and even donors finding EWI’s passion for social change real and infectious. It’s true that once you meet our women entrepreneurs and experience the passion behind their work, you too will catch the bug and be transformed. We’re in the business of changing lives, but doing this without passion we wouldn’t be the same organization.

Once empowered, women give back.

It’s truly remarkable to see our immigrant or low-income women students struggling to recover from difficult life circumstances, yet working on business models that aim at social change. Income or profit is important for women. But what is most important is the change these women want to see in their communities. And their business enables them to do just that.

Mentoring is inspiring and rewarding.

We all want to feel good about being of help to someone in need. We love to support and invest in people who passionately believe in what they do. We love champions, and being part of their journeys is as rewarding as seeing them reaching the final destination.

Continue reading

Sharing Online

Did you catch “Online Mentors to Guide Women Into the Sciences” in this weekend’s New York Times?

Hundreds of prominent women working in science, technology, engineering and math will become online mentors for college students next month, part of a six-week program to encourage young women to pursue careers in STEM fields.

[...] The program has no curriculum, no exam, no grades and no credit — just a goal of connecting young students with accomplished women working in STEM fields.

[...] While women now earn more college degrees than men over all, they lag in STEM fields — particularly computer science and engineering, where they earn less than 20 percent of all undergraduate degrees.

Continue reading