Melissa Schwass is helping the next generation of women in STEM fields through ChickTech
January 29, 2018 – Melissa Schwass is trying to help the next generation of women in STEM fields by serving as Volunteer Director for ChickTech, a nationwide group that celebrated its Denver kickoff on Jan. 20-21 at University of Denver’s Ritchie School of Engineering and Computer Science. The free, two-day event was for high school female teens in and near Denver, Schwass said. The weekend included technical seminars on robotics, 3D printing, JAVA scripting, soft circuits and other topics attended by over 50 participants.
“Me being in IT, I’ve been in countless meetings where I’m the only female,” said Schwass, a Senior Project Manager at Burwood Group.
“I want to encourage other women to pursue STEM technology and show them that there are opportunities out there,” said Schwass, an Aurora, Illinois, native who now lives in the City Park neighborhood of Denver.
Schwass is well aware that most of her colleagues are men and the stats explaining why. In the U.S. women earn only about 35 percent of the undergraduate degrees in STEM – which hasn’t changed over the last decade – even though they account for almost 60 percent of college graduates, according to the World Economic Forum. Women also only receive small percentages of degrees in biological sciences like computer sciences (17.9 percent), engineering (19.3 percent) and physical sciences (39 percent), according to the National Girls Collaborative Project.
Schwass said not having women involved in STEM is a disservice to everyone.
“I think it will help the tech field and whole world if we get more women involved,” she said. “I think women are the ones who really help bring about creative solutions to problems.”
At Burwood Group Schwass ensures client projects are completed on time and under budget throughout Western states like California, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. Projects include deploying workplace technologies to improve employee productivity, migrating platforms to the cloud or deploying stronger security processes.
Joanna Robinson, Senior Vice President of Technology at Burwood Group, said the company is “extremely proud of the work Melissa is undertaking on behalf of ChickTech to support young women pursuing technology-based careers.”
“As an IT consulting firm, the issue is close to our hearts and we find it invaluable to have a team member like Melissa championing such an important cause,” Robinson said.
Schwass, a graduate of Aurora East High School, also has a bachelor’s degree from Saint Xavier University in Chicago and an MBA from Aurora University.
She said her volunteer work with ChickTech is part of her overall mission to give back to society. She also spends a few hours a week as a hospice companion simply talking to patients.
“I get to know a lot about who they are,” said Schwass, who moved to Denver in July.
Schwass said she’ll get to meet the ChickTech students for the first time starting Jan. 20. She’s excited to introduce them to STEM-related ideas and hopefully hook them into the fields. ChickTech in Denver will organize monthly meetings with students and eventually enroll some of the students into a mentorship program.
“Our goal is to make technology fun for them and we hope they continue with their education into college,” Schwass said. “The goal is to get them into college. If it’s in a STEM field, that’s a bonus.”
The next ChickTech Denver event is Saturday, Feb. 24. For more information, visit http://denver.chicktech.org/