Jen Giacchino was working as a recruiter in tech and every company seemed to be facing the same hurdle: how to hire women and with diversity, build an even stronger team. “Before I was a recruiter I just assumed there was a lot of gender bias in the hiring process, but when I got there I realized that a lot of these companies are desperate to hire women, and I saw that there were not a lot of women in the pipeline to be hired,” Jen says.
After volunteering with an after-school program for girls taking computer science classes, she realized that many of these young girls in seventh and eighth grade had a high aptitude toward learning tech programs but were lacking in confidence. As technology is actively impacting more and more of our daily lives from how we engage with communities and family, to how we perceive ourselves through social media, something had to change.
Jen dove into research and began engaging with the community to see what could be done. She ultimately teamed up with two other women, Dr. Emily Harburg and Anna Bethune, who were both passionate about closing the gender gap and empowering girls in tech. Emily and Anna were also concurrently pursuing PhDs looking at challenges from how to develop a confidence mindset in girls around technology to how best to integrate technology into education systems when kids don’t have prior access.
Brave Initiatives was born. As a non-profit, the Brave team started hosting five-day camps focused on building core competencies to both teach skills and build confidence in girls. During the camp, each attendee chooses a social issue they care about and then develops a technology solution to address that issue. “It is designed around building that core vocabulary for the girls,” Jen says. “Getting them to understand that technology is important and influential and how you build it and why you build it is equally important.”
Many of the girls walk into camp from broken neighborhoods and want to see change, and Brave shows them they can accelerate the process of positive evolution and have an impact as an individual utilizing technology. “It’s not this coding camp where girls walk away and they’re ready to take a job in tech,” says Jen. “At Brave Camp, it’s really about building this confidence mindset and giving them the tools they need to walk into a classroom and be successful there. Or, even just the confidence that they need or the community that they need to feel not alone or isolated in that experience.”
While many people might have the knowledge base to create a product, that doesn’t necessarily birth leadership, so one area of training that Brave takes special focus on is leadership development. It’s this development that has led girls to move on after camp and start initiatives at their schools such as girls who code groups or anti-violence programs. “Leadership is not just about being in charge, but leadership often spurs out of being someone who has a voice, knows how to use their voice, has an opinion, and knows how to run behind their core values and their beliefs,” describes Jen.
But change doesn’t happen overnight. Many companies will approach Brave in hopes they can hire developers after Brave Camp, but training a developer is not immediate. “Everybody wants the quick fix and instant gratification. Everybody wants to up their hiring goals or find their key person next year or in the next six months,” says Jen, who adds that this is not a problem that is going to get fixed in the next year or in the next three years. “If we really believe in systemic change, we have to put on our seatbelts and know that this is going to be a long ride, and that we have to start investing in the programs that are truly investing in the people that you desire to hire.”
Brave has focused on investing in girls while young, seeing that it’s challenging to take people and turn them into leaders when they aren’t raised with that mindset. “Human development just takes a while and we don’t have the patience for it,” says Jen. “We want to invest our money, I think, in instant gratification. But I think if we want to see real answers to these really difficult problems and not be spinning our wheels in the same place in 10 years, we really have to think on a 10-year plan.”
How Can We Make a Difference?
At InterimExecs we are thankful for the organizations and executives who put their trust in us. We are a 100% people-based business and believe it’s all about the quality of leadership. While we see interim executives providing immediate value in companies around the globe, we are with Brave in challenging ourselves and those around us to think about how we can continue to build up a world of future leaders.
InterimExecs has committed to match the deployment of interim executives with an investment in Brave camps and the development of women leaders. Every time we send out an interim executive, we know that leader is making positive impact within an organization and a community, and we are excited to see Brave-trained girls continue to do the same.
Join us March 6 for Brave Bash
Join us March 6 for Brave Bash in Chicago where InterimExecs President, Olivia Wagner, will be featured as the 2020 Brave Honoree and sharing how we have seen the positive impact leadership makes in companies, individuals, families, and communities as a whole.
Can’t attend? Please consider donating to send a girl to Brave camp this summer or sponsor a Brave camp in a community you are passionate about.