IT exec launches social enterprise to empower girls in science, technology

Cathy Simpson, a veteran of the IT industry in New Brunswick, has launched the social enterprise Up and Go in hopes of getting more women involved in science, technology, engineering, math and entrepreneurship fields.

Founder Cathy Simpson hopes Up and Go will close the gender gap in so-called STEM fields

Cathy Simpson, the founder of Up and Go, plans to focus on mentors, training, and programs that will build 'more authentic, confident, self-assured, and decisive girls and young women' who will become the next generation of business, government, STEM, entrepreneurs and social leaders. (Up and Go)

A veteran of the IT industry in New Brunswick is launching a new social enterprise to close the gender gap in the so-called STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, as well as entrepreneurship in the province.

Cathy Simpson, who has been in the tech industry for 27 years, is targeting middle school and high school-aged girls and their parents in a series of panels and films through her new endeavour, Up and Go.

Girls need to see women in these traditionally male-dominated industries "so they realize they can do the same things too," said Simpson, a mother of three and T4G's vice-president of the public sector.

One of the premises behind Up and Go is you need to get up and you need to go for it.- Cathy Simpson, founder

"If they only see men, they're going to be conditioned to think, 'Well that's probably not a path for me,' and that's so far from the truth."

Simpson says it's a "new conversation" in the region.

"We tend to raise our boys to be brave. We tend to sometimes our raise our girls to be perfect and they're afraid to be as brave," she said.

"One of the premises behind Up and Go is you need to get up and you need to go for it."

Film, panel discussion

On Tuesday night, Simpson held a screening at the New Brunswick Community College Saint John campus of the film Dream Girl.

It's a documentary about a 23-year-old woman who decided she wanted to finish her corporate job as a graphic artist and follow her passion to create a film.

She started a GoFundMe campaign and found some investors and started producing a film in New York City about "some amazing women" who started their own businesses, said Simpson.

"It's just an hour of pure delight and positivity [about] these women who have built businesses by raising $300 million — like we're not talking small business, we're talking entrepreneurial success stories."

A panel discussion with three entrepreneurs was to follow.

"I want these girls and these moms and dads to see role models right here in Saint John and then I want to produce that film for New Brunswick," said Simpson. "I want people to see the talent that's here I think it's a real draw for people to come to our region."

Simpson has also held screenings of the film Hidden Figures about a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. Twenty-two New Brunswick women in related fields were on hand for the screenings to talk about their own work.

In addition, Simpson is developing a once-a-week four-month program for girls, expected to launch this fall, dealing with issues such as confidence, self-esteem, and resilience.

Simpson says nothing is going to change overnight. But if New Brunswick wants to see more women rising to leadership positions, she says more girls have to start entering these industries.

She urges them to follow the Up and Go tag and "Be Brave. Be You."

With files from Information Morning Saint John