Bringing Young People To STEM Professions Takes Center Stage At This Year’s Urban Tech Center Gala
“Women have traditionally been left behind,” said Pat Bransford, president of the nonprofit organization, The National Urban Technology Center. “We want to push women forward. We need these careers for global leadership.”
The careers she was referring to were in the STEM professions; the science, technology, engineering, and math jobs that are becoming more abundant as work in other areas has lessened. We stole a few moments with Bransford during the 18th annual fundraising gala for her organization Wednesday night,which included a performance by Vy Higgensen’s Gospel for Teens Choir, a silent auction, and a three-course meal at Capitale in Manhattan. Awards were also handed out, including a public service award for Judy Smith, founder of crisis communications firm Smith & Co and the inspiration behind the hit show Scandal. CBS news anchor Maurice DuBois and E! News’ Alicia Quarles were the MCs.
Before the evening could get underway, guests were greeted out front by a small band of protesters who were handing out fliers outlining the efforts by Walmart employees for higher wages and better working conditions. Specifically, the flier called out Christopher Williams, a gala chair, chairman and CEO of The Williams Capital Group, and a Walmart director. Walmart has recently said it will monitor more closely factories in Bangladesh that have workers toiling in unsafe conditions. And it faced shareholders who proposed measures that would increase pay for employees. The flier accused Williams of being “silent” as these and other issues arose.
“I facilitate the conversation between these parties,” Williams told MadameNoire Business when we approached him during the gala cocktail hour. He added that he has shared information he receives with Walmart.
Back inside at the dinner, the focus was squarely on the work of helping young people progress and the supporters of the organization. Urban Tech has a flagship program, The Youth Leadership Academy, which creates a “e-learning platform and curriculum” to help a student further their education. The goal is to provide both educational and emotional support for young people as they gain STEM skills.
A lot of Urban Tech’s work is online, with music, journal writing, and Internet skills incorporated into the services they provide to students between the third and 12th grades. But Bransford also highlighted the need for mentors and role models, citing, for example, her mom and Shirley Jackson as personal examples. Jackson was the first African-American woman to get a PhD from MIT (in nuclear physics), is president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and was the first woman and African American to serve as chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, appointed in 1995 by President Clinton.
“A woman can be CEO once you’ve got those STEM credentials,” Bransford told us. “And then we can bring the men.”