Work Hard. Dream Big. Inspire! eBay Inspire! Program Exposes Young Women to STEM Careers
By: Heather Drake
Mark Carges, eBay CTO, addresses Inspire! Scholars
Technology is having an impact on our world in ways previously unimagined. It’s changing virtually every industry. It’s shaping foreign policy. It’s connecting the world. And it’s just getting started. Jobs that seem commonplace today – app developer, user experience designer, market research data miner, sustainability expert – didn’t exist ten years ago. Now, young women who pursue education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are developing skills that can impact millions if not hundreds of millions of people while preparing for jobs that may not yet exist. That’s pretty cool.
On Monday, 14 female students joined top technology leaders at eBay for a day of learning, mentoring and workshops as part of Inspire! – a program that aims to empower young women and equip them with the tools needed to build lasting careers through STEM education.
Keynote speaker Dr. Telle Whitney, President and CEO of the Anita Borg Institute, laid down five simple lessons during the Inspire! day at eBay: 1) Take risks; 2) Cultivate sponsors; 3) Ask for what you want; 4) Dream big; 5) Take visibility seriously. She also stressed the importance of developing a set of skills that will allow you to evolve over time in order to be prepared for jobs that don’t exist today.
We need more female technology leaders if we’re going to remain competitive, not just as a company, but more importantly, as a country. The best attracts the best. The best companies have the best people. The best people make the best teams. And the best teams have diversity – diversity in perspective, opinion and background. If you look at eBay’s engineering teams across the world, we have diversity in ethnicity, and geographic diversity, yet, like other high tech companies – we simply don’t have enough women engineers or women in technology overall.
Think about this. Today, women earn almost half of the bachelor-level degrees in the US – but fewer than 20% of these are in STEM. Women in STEM careers help drive innovation through a larger, more diverse talent pool. That’s why eBay is taking action to contribute to a larger and collectively stronger talent pool that is essential to driving innovation and new advancements at eBay and beyond.
Inspire! is the latest cut-through program that combines mentorship, scholarship, and internship opportunities to young women from disadvantaged schools. Here’s how it works: Girls participating in Inspire! are provided a scholarship of $5,000 per year for their first two years in college. While this amount may seem modest, the greatest value comes in the form of the mentorship by an eBay employee, which incudes everyone from engineers to managers to our senior-most executives.
Neel Sundaresan, Inspire! Program Sponsor initiated the program. “I sent out an email to some of our executives to see whether they could help identify mentors from each of their staffs,” said Sundaresan. “And guess what? They didn’t forward the email – they all became mentors. Top leaders in our company, including our Chief Technology Officer, Mark Carges, and a group of Vice Presidents, are personally invested in this program.”
Enrica Beltran, a UCSC Freshman with a high school background in robotics competitions and Carges’s mentee for the year, is pursuing a degree in computer science.
“I’m happy to be an eBay Inspire! scholar because we have a community to help us, which was a key factor when I was on the robotics team at high school – everyone was there to help one another,” said Beltran. “I want to thank eBay for providing this scholarship and a community to really lean upon when I need help.”
Jessica Hughes, an Indiana University sophomore studying computer science, is seeking certification in game design.
“I’m excited we’re all going to be able to help each other and keep one another from feeling isolated because there are not many women in these types of fields,” said Hughes, a self-taught HTML programmer, about the program.
As part of its efforts to mentor the talent of the future, eBay also invests in organizations such as Dare2B Digital, GirlStart, and Girls Who Code, which give female students early exposure to STEM careers. The company also inspires current employees through WIN – the Women’s Initiative Network (WIN).