Tracey Welson-Rossman isn’t afraid of asking questions. That’s how she founded TechGirlz, a Philadelphia nonprofit that tonight will receive a Nucleus Award from the University City Science Center.
Welson-Rossman questioned the way schools were introducing girls to technology; she dug into the research to learn the best age to introduce girls to tech skills; and then she asked girls: What do you want to learn?
“They gave us a list. They wanted to learn about podcasts and media and video. They wanted to create…They wanted to get their hands dirty,” said Welson-Rossman, who is also Chief Marketing Officer at IT consulting firm, Chariot Solutions.
The Nucleus Awards, presented by CSL Behring, are awarded to ecosystem builders that fuel discovery, demolish barriers and foster an innovative future. CSL’s Head of R&D and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bill Mezzanotte, who is also a member of the Science Center’s Board of Directors, will speak at the event. Welson-Rossman is receiving the Nucleus Award for being a “cultivator.”
Through workshops and camps, TechGirlz has reached 25,000 girls around the world. On the agenda for September are three virtual workshops on genetic mysteries, voice apps and Python programming. The programs currently target girls in middle school, catching them before – as research shows – they rule out technology as a future career. The program stresses fun over dull lectures and some girls “find their tribe” in TechGirlz, Welson-Rossman said.
To make TechGirlz a success, she and the team approached it like a start-up and zeroed in on how to make the experience “frictionless” both for participants and the tech experts who volunteer to teach.
“We weren’t afraid to try new things. We took chances,” Welson-Rossman said. “You can’t get better unless you understand what worked and what didn’t work.”
That kind of analysis eventually led Welson-Rossman to step aside and let the program grow with new management. Another nonprofit, Creating IT Futures, now operates TechGirlz and she stayed on as a board member. Welson-Rossman wants to see the program reach its potential and she’s looking forward to tracking alumni to see where their careers take them. As for herself, she just did something familiar: She founded another start-up.
Other honorees at tonight’s Nucleus Awards include:
Max Perelman, Co-Founder of Biomeme, a leading provider of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing solutions: PCR tests detect genetic material belonging to certain organisms, such as SARS-CoV-2, which COVID-19.
Della Clark, President of the Enterprise Center, an engine that powers minority entrepreneurship through transformative economic development. Under Clark’s leadership, more than 2,000 jobs were created and businesses obtained more than $631 million in contracts and $131 million in intermediary financing.
Michelle Freeman, CEO of Witty Gritty, an event management company in Philadelphia. Witty Gritty specializes in conversations, community and connecting people. The team has managed events such as TEDxPhiladelphia, Urban Consulate and Amplify Philly.