Girls & Making Series: Meet Mary

Digital Harbor Foundation is very passionate about having females in our space and involved in what we do. One of our main goals is to increase the number of female program participants and increase retention of girls in our programs. The Girls & Making Series is a way for us to share success stories and the important role that females can play in making and technology projects and careers. To see other posts from this series, click here.

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1. Have you always been interested in making? 

I’ve been making stuff for almost as long as I can remember. It’s entirely possible that I came out of the womb drawing. I have been really lucky to be educated in the arts from a very young age, so I never really considered paths that weren’t creative. Since coming to Baltimore to attend school, I’ve been exposed to a plethora of ways to connect art and technology. In particular, I think to a collaborative project that involved creating installations for sensory therapy spaces. It was really exciting to take technical drawings and turn around and fabricate these ideas with others. It also taught me a lot about how following my creative impulses can lead me to connect with people in a really profound way.

2. Why are you passionate about having female makers in our space? 

I’m passionate about the work I do at DHF because it’s important to me to connect and empower those who I can share a similar creative drives and passions. I think women have unique capacities for empathy and communication, which can set up ideal conditions for making. Some of the strongest bonds in my life have been with those I’ve created with, so I want to contribute to a world where women know they have a place in this process and can rely on each other along the way.

3. What is one of your favorite memories of a young female maker?

When I first got to DHF and started working with Maker Foundations, it really struck me how amazing the girls are who come here. They are incredibly driven, articulate and eager to learn on their feet. With the all-girls cohort it was especially clear how hands-on they were compared to the boys. Whereas their male counterparts generally started their projects with virtual components (designing Scratch games, mixing sounds in Soundplant), the girls started by making physical and building interactive elements into them. For instance, Violet built a stage and a really intricate drum set and then hooked it up to a Makey Makey and sound library, allowing others to play through the character she developed because she cared about them. Many of these kinds of projects stood out to me because they were strongly rooted in narratives which encouraged interaction and engagement in a really sophisticated way. At our showcase, I was overwhelmed by joy in seeing them bring others into the stories and worlds they’d created.

4. Why do you feel that girls shy away from making?

I actually don’t think that girls shy away from making. I grew up in creative environments my whole life and I’ve always been surrounded by women there. There’s a whole history and tradition of women in arts and craft that has supported this. Within the rapidly changing landscapes of technology, however, it seems that women are less recognized. While we are certainly the minority in STEM-based learning, I don’t think this is due to lack of interest or ability. Rather, I think that young women depend on social structures and interactivity within creative spaces. On the surface, technology often does not appear this way. It may seem cold, detached and rewarding to those who works independently and in virtual capacities.

5. How can we get more girls interested in making programs?

In order to increase female participation in STEM learning, I think it’s important to dismantle this perception. First and foremost, it’s important to build up a supportive community of women in both learning and leadership roles. At DHF, we introduced an all-girls cohort of Maker Foundations, which drastically increased retention among female makers. But it’s not enough to just get more girls in the space; we’ve worked hard to find and continue to look for ways to keep them here. In part, this involved revitalizing the Makerettes (our Friday making club for girls) in an effort to encourage young women to utilize the resources in our space together beyond the context of our courses.

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