The Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) recently joined a worldwide push to encourage women to consider educational and career paths in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
A one-day Girls Power Tech conference, sponsored by Cisco, was held at the BTVI New Providence and Grand Bahama campuses. Cisco is a global player in information technology (IT), networking and cyber security solutions.
Participants had the opportunity to interact with women who are technology professionals, and who shared stories about their careers and their vision for a technologically advanced future. The girls were selected from students who are already a part of the Government's three-year Information and Communications Technology (ICT) programme.
St John's College student, Kaitlyn Micklewhite, who is in her second year of the ICT programme, said: "Not a lot of girls are exposed to IT the way we are being exposed. We are gaining lots of knowledge in cryptocurrency and blockchains, in basic IT, advanced fundamentals and in programming.
"It has helped me a lot in IT in school. It has been a platform to do better in the subject. The world is moving with technology and I want to be a part of the advancement and be able to contribute."
Danielle Issacs, a Queen's College student, added: "We're learning more IT and working on blockchains…it's really hard, but it's fun. I feel lucky to be chosen to part of the programme, and would like to use my IT knowledge in business."
New Providence participants toured Bahamas Power and Light's (BPL) data centre, while those in Grand Bahama visited Cable Bahamas and the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC). There was also a video conference with Cisco representative, Monica Gomez.
BTVI's chair of information technology, Anthony Ramtulla recalled how the IT programme had advanced from having just five female participants to a student population that was now 50 percent women.
"I thank the Prime Minister for making this whole venture possible. This is his idea; BTVI is facilitating it. You are a seed that has been planted to move this country into a new era," said Mr Ramtulla.
Mr Ramtulla believes the programme will help create the next generation of software engineers, network engineers and information technology managers.
Leroy Sumner, associate vice-president of academic affairs, added: "Technology runs the world. If you don't be a part of it, you will be left behind. It is driving everything. You are in the right place at the right time."
He told participants: "Stay focused. All of the other things will follow; they can wait. Be young, upstanding women. Don't get into the programme and demean yourselves. Take your rightful place. There is a place for you somewhere in The Bahamas, somewhere in the world."
The ICT programme was developed at a time when there is a wide gap between the number of men and women working in the field. According to Cisco, women comprise 27 percent of workers in the computer science, engineering and physics fields in some of the world's emerging economies.
Last year, 123 students from private and public schools in New Providence were awarded certificates after completing phase one of the three-year ICT programme. There were 175 students combined between the programme in New Providence and Grand Bahama.