Women Who Reign: Priya Talreja

What would you do if you weren’t afraid? -Sheryl Sandberg

Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
My name is Priya, and I’m currently a junior at Mission San Jose High in California. I am interested in biotechnology and computational biology. In addition to being interested in STEM, I am a huge advocate for environmental policy and sustainability practices!

I am the founder of an organization called Project EmpowHER Girls, which aims to bridge the gender gap in computing and technology. I created this organization with the goal of providing high school and middle school girls with more opportunities to get involved in the field. We held our first tech panel in mid-February at Thoughtworks SF, with panelists from companies including Medium, Netflix, LinkedIN, and Adobe!

What inspired you to found this organization?
In a male dominated field, females are often discouraged from participating in activities related to STEM. Interestingly, such problems exist even here in the Silicon Valley. I have seen instances of this occur at my school. For instance, it took several attempts over the course of a year to get enough votes for the Girls Who Code club to get passed. Additionally, STEM related activities, such as robotics and math club, are consistently dominated by males with very few female participants, if any.

I think one of the reasons that the gender gap is so significant is because of how tightly we cling to traditional gender roles. In today’s world, computing and technology are really important to almost every field of study. Thus, it’s super important that everyone has equal access and opportunities in the field.

What are your future plans for this organization?
In the future, I hope to reach out to girls in areas that may not have the opportunities that we have here in the Silicon Valley. I am thinking of organizing a national competition that will provide high school and middle school girls with the necessary resources and technology to create and pitch their own community impact projects. I also think it would be really cool to host workshops related to Virtual Reality.

Favorite website / app:
My favorite website at the moment is Quora. There are so many people willing to share their experiences and ideas. The website is full of humorous, heartbreaking, and inspirational anecdotes, stories, and advice. I have connected with many people from the website, and I always look forward to receiving my daily digest.

Song that makes you want to dance:
Start of Something New from High School Musical! As cheesy as it sounds, this song always lifts my mood, and it brings back so many memories!

Ideal Job:
In the future, I hope to pursue a career that combines my interests in technology and the environment – possibly a job that will allow me to develop new technology that helps the environment or changes the way we manufacture products!

What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Be active in Facebook communities related to your interests, such as Women in VR/AR,  Ladies Storm Hackathons, Global Tech Women, Women Who Code, etc. Interacting with other women on these platforms is an easy way to build up your network. If there are opportunities in your area (like hackathons or panels) definitely try to attend. As a resident of the Silicon Valley, I am fortunate enough to be surrounded with tons of opportunities, but if there aren’t very many opportunities in your area, I urge you to go ahead and initiate your own! Don’t be afraid to message people on social media or networking sites (LinkedIN!) who have careers that interest you. Nine times out of ten you will not get a response, but I guarantee that you will eventually find someone who is willing to go above and beyond in answering your questions and helping you out.

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