When Suhani Singhal showed up for her first computer science class at Amador Valley High School last year, she was concerned to find so few girls enrolled.
"I know that in the future, technology will be an even bigger part of our daily lives and society, and I don't want girls to be left behind," said Suhani, a lifelong Pleasanton resident and now a junior.
She began to explore the inequity.
"I decided, after doing a lot of research, that one of the biggest reasons was girls didn't have a lot of role models they could ask questions," she said.
Suhani decided to create chances for girls to meet and talk to role models, making it her Girl Scout Gold Award project, called "1000 Bits of Hope." In the fall, she held two events to give girls a chance to meet and network with women in the field, who spoke about their backgrounds and their lives in high tech.
The first was held at the Technovation World Pitch, a one-week conference held this year at a hotel in Santa Clara, which draws girls from all around the world, including Canada, India, Cambodia and Kenya.
"I held my own workshop," Suhani said. "I brought in five women – some still in college, some in the workforce – so I could bring different perspectives to the table."
The panel discussion was a chance for the girls to ask questions, which Suhani kicked off by inquiring about obstacles the panelists had faced and what advice they would give.
"There were so many young girls who came up to me afterwards and said, 'This was really helpful,'" Suhani recalled.
The second event, held at the Google Community Center in San Francisco, was attended by about 70 girls from inner-city high schools in Oakland and San Francisco.
"This was a longer workshop with a panel of different women," Suhani said, and the keynote speaker was Neha Palmer, head of energy strategy at Google. "She talked about her journey, a motivational speech."
The event also had a hands-on aspect, with stations for the girls to learn concepts like coding in Python and binary numbers.
Knowing that she was reaching a fraction of the girls she wanted to help, Suhani created a seven-part video series called "Super Bytes with Suhani Singhal," which she posted on her website, www.1000bitsofhope.org. These online videos give everyone the chance to explore the stories of women who are successful in technology fields.
"In each video, I interviewed a different woman for about 20 to 30 minutes," Suhani said. "I wanted to highlight how each journey is different. Even though there were different backgrounds and races, they were still able to pursue a field of computer science."
Each video goes into depth about the woman's obstacles, advice and career. These stories also are informative about the many career options in the tech field, Suhani noted.
"Because of the coronavirus I decided to continue with even more," she said. "This is a good time for girls to get into this. Even if they aren't at school, they can watch these videos."
Suhani is pleased with the response by the professionals.
"These women are super busy but they were all super approachable," she said. "I think the reason is they know this is a problem and they saw value in my project. They want to give back, to help girls pursue this field."
Suhani said she was late to scouting, which she discovered when she and her older sister attended Two Sentinels Girl Scout Camp when she was in the sixth grade.
"I hadn't done backpacking or camping before and we loved the nature aspect of it – getting away from technology," Suhani recalled. "Once I'd camped, I loved it so much and wanted to be a Girl Scout and to go back every year."
She has taken up leadership positions in the Scouts, serving as a regional delegate and on the Girl Board. During her free time, she practices taekwondo and has a second-degree black belt. She also enjoys reading, watching sci-fi movies, coding or just hanging out with friends.
Suhani received her Girl Scout Gold Award from Marina Park, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern California, at a celebration March 7, also her 16th birthday, but she will keep up her mission.
"I want to continue to make more videos and host more events," she said.
Suhani plans to pursue a career in high tech as well as business and to combine them with another passion, perhaps developing an app for food or fashion.
"What is really cool about technology is how all these women have different passions," she said. "One liked art, one liked biology. They used it to solve problems."
Suhani stressed that she is appreciative for her education.
"I am fortunate and grateful that Pleasanton has such amazing schools, teachers and classes," she said. "But I know that some girls don't have the same resources, and I wanted to create this to inspire them."