A career in technology wasn’t something Catrena Slaughter dreamed of. That’s because she didn’t know one existed. But once upon a time, the Lifetime Television Network inspired her – sparking a lifelong interest in the digital space. And today? She’s the head of Security Architecture at Mars.
Now Catrena is working to inspire the next generation of female tech trailblazers, and she knows it starts with exposure.
Young women need to know they have options, well before they enter the workforce, and Catrena and The Women of Digital Mars (WoDM) Associate Resource Group (ARG) are using community volunteer activities to help bring those options to light.
The ARG’s recent community outreach activity was a simple idea – with enormous impact. It started with the question, “How can we foster cleaner communities by using digital solutions to reduce waste, like candy wrappers, pet waste, food packaging and more?”
But for the WoDM, simply searching for innovative solutions wasn’t enough. It was about achieving what they call “Triple Impact:”
- Grow our communities
- Grow our future women leaders
- Contribute to Mars business growth
Finding solutions to reduce waste would certainly grow our communities and ultimately contribute to overall business growth – but could they achieve all three goals at the same time?
Thankfully, they had a passionate sponsor on the Digital Technologies Leadership Team – Praveen Moturu. As Chief Enterprise Architect and WoDM mentor – Praveen readily offered his support. And he knew the perfect place to make an impact.
The WoDM truly wanted to empower students to dream big. So, with Praveen’s support, they reached out to Chicago State University, an Historically Black College, and proposed their idea: a student-driven, virtual hackathon for cleaner communities. In return for participating in the competition, our WoDM members would mentor young women interested in learning more about a career in tech.
“It’s the Associate development we strive for within Women of Digital Mars,” Catrena explains. “But even more importantly, it’s an opportunity to get out into our local community, make meaningful change and expose these students to careers they may not even know exist.”
It was the “Triple Impact.” Reduce littering on the Southside of Chicago. Empower women of diverse backgrounds in underrepresented STEM careers. Create the world we want tomorrow through today’s innovation.
Hack to it!
Catrena and co-lead Aline Custodio coordinated the event. Sixty student participants were divided into teams and paired with a WoDM mentor. Coaches mentored students by challenging idea – with all teams working to solve the same problem. They learned about Design Thinking and tools. They worked on storytelling and presentation skills. They were even able to connect and network with other Associates – learning about internship and career possibilities.
The judging criteria set a high bar, with projects evaluated on feasibility, impact, innovation, and presentation. In just one week, the teams submitted four projects, some of which included using drone technology to detect and clean-up waste and creating a trash-dispenser tracking app with sensor technology to alert municipalities with status updates and more.
WoDM was founded earlier this year and the hackathon was their first major outreach project – but it certainly won’t be the last. The ARG hopes to host more community-based events and ultimately inspire more women to join them in the tech world.
Statistics show there’s certainly still work to be done when it comes to creating a more inclusive workforce. While women make up 51% of the world’s population, they hold only 20% of jobs in the tech space.
And for both Catrena and the WoDM, creating a more inclusive tomorrow means encouraging more women to dream big.