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IBMer Megan Hampton Advocates STEM Education

Advisory Software Engineer Megan Hampton is an advocate for girls’ education in STEM, both in the United States and abroad.

Megan Hampton and Fatou Jammeh are photographed in 2019 in New York, Image by Natalie Chitwood

In addition to her job as an advisory software engineer at IBM, Megan Hampton wears another hat as an advocate for girls’ education in STEM, both in the United States and abroad. 

“People rallied around me to support and push me, and so I think I need to do the same so that we can have more young girls and girls of different colors and backgrounds join in and really grow the STEM fields,” Hampton says.

To help girls interested in STEM, Hampton hosted an annual #SheCanSTEM event where she designed a day for high school sophomore girls interested in technology. At the first event, the girls completed a Python challenge, a Raspberry Pi demo and designed #SheCanSTEM pins from scratch, among many other activities meant to foster an interest in technology. She first hosted #SheCanSTEM last year to encourage high school girls to pursue STEM subjects and to show them that they can have careers in technology. 

Fatou Jammeh, Hampton’s mentee, inspired the #SheCanSTEM event. “She had so much potential, but she wasn’t thinking of pursuing any STEM-related careers because she hadn’t met anyone who looked like her in the field, or was close to her age,” Hampton says. “So I thought, ‘I need to expose her to engineering.’ I told her about myself, my background. That opened her eyes to the point where she became interested in engineering.”

The first event hosted 11 young women from Newburgh Free Academy P-TECH. Hampton planned every detail, designing several activities including a “Girls Room” panel of female IBMers, Tina Tarquinio’s top 10 chat, an Agile Space tour, a Python challenge, an Executive Briefing Center tour and a Raspberry Pi demo. Learn more about last year’s #SheCanSTEM event.

At this year’s event, Hampton changed up the Python challenge and demo segments. A design thinking segment addressed girls who like technology but might not be interested in engineering. 

Hampton also recently visited a refugee camp in Malawi where she taught over 70 women and girls how to code. Hampton found that many of the girls, even though they wanted to be at the event, feared asking questions and speaking up. The girls that Hampton met in #SheCanSTEM often have the same fears of being perceived as less intelligent or being ridiculed for not knowing something. It’s a fear Hampton understands well as a woman in a male-dominated field.

“We’re not exposing young women to saying you can do it, you’re smart enough, you’re capable, you’re strong enough to do it,” Hampton says. “If they don’t have the support system, where else are they going to look? So, then they shy away and don't do it at all.” Hampton is dedicated to creating this support system and encouraging more young girls to ask questions, be curious and make themselves heard.

Hampton’s work through #SheCanSTEM is an encouragement to young women across the world that technology is an option for them. She plans to hold the event annually to encourage young women to pursue STEM careers. 

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