Empower, Enable, and Encourage Girls to Excel!

Photo of Jothi Ramaswamy
5 9

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Website: Personal- ThinkSTEAM- Twitter: Personal- @jothi_ramaswamy ThinkSTEAM- @ThinkSTEAMInc Instagram: Personal: @_jothiramaswamy ThinkSTEAM: @ThinkSTEAMInc Facebook: ThinkSTEAM:

Date Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)

1. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project? NOTE: All applications must include a 1 minute video that answers: “I am stepping up to make change because..."

“33 boys. Zero girls.” My jaw dropped as my brother iterated the gender ratio in his C++ class. It would be an understatement to say that I was shocked. I have been interested in STEM since I first learned to code in 6th grade, but this moment opened up my eyes to the evident gender gap in STEM. This really hit home for me, because when I was 7 years old, my father passed away, but my mom was able to raise my brother and I with her engineering degree. To me, STEM isn’t just a group of fields, it represents the opportunity for everyone, all genders included, to support themselves no matter what happens in life. If I can inspire girls to pursue STEM -- even just one girl -- I believe I can give them the confidence and opportunity to take care of their families despite any hardships. This belief has driven me to embark on a mission to bridge the gender gap in STEM once and for all.

2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Although 66% of 4th grade girls love science, only 18% of college STEM majors are female. Upon learning about this, I realized that many girls are discouraged at a young age from entering STEM, which represents some of the most highly paid jobs, because of society's biases and beliefs that men are more capable. STEM represents the opportunity for everyone to support themselves no matter what. Thus, my mission is to bridge the gender gap in STEM.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

When I learned about the gender gap in STEM, I knew I had to foster an interest for STEM in girls. I then thought “what better way to do so then combining it with something their already interested, in like the arts!” I decided not to think STEM, but instead to think STEAM--STEM+Arts. Thus, I founded my 501(c)(3) non-profit ThinkSTEAM to bridge the gender gap in STEM through the arts. By connecting girls with STEAM professionals from institutes like Facebook, Google, IBM, PepsiCo, and Columbia University, ThinkSTEAM provides STEAM workshops for girls, teaching them to integrate their creativity with STEM through activities like programming hats to light up colors. ThinkSTEAM also conducted the Global ThinkBIG Challenge (a video contest for girls to creatively show their peers why we STEM is important for girls) for three years. For ThinkSTEAM’s blog, I interviewed influential females in tech, like Girls Who Code CEO Reshma Saujani and Microsoft’s First Female Technical Fellow Laura Butler, to share their stories and inspire women to create an impact with STEAM. ThinkSTEAM has been featured in newspapers like the New York Times and News12 (

4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

There was a girl in elementary school who attended a Scratch coding workshop in Westchester, NY who was involuntarily dragged into the workshop room by her mother. It was clear that initially, she did not want to be there. However, when I started to teach girls to code animations with Scratch, she was blown away. She created a mini project with each letter of her name changing colors and spinning, and was fascinated that she could create something so amazing with simple code. At the end of the workshop, she did not want to leave, even when her mom tried to drag her out of the room. She returned to workshops afterwards and became determined to pursue a career in STEM and work at a company like Facebook. The pure satisfaction I received from seeing her light up with passion for technology still fuels my determination to even out the playing field in STEM once and for all.

5. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Many organizations teach girls coding, but ThinkSTEAM is different as it introduces girls to the creative element of STEM by connecting girls to STEAM professionals in and bringing girls to STEAM workplaces so they can see how people are realizing their STEAM passions. ThinkSTEAM also teaches girls to use their creativity and tech knowledge to address social issues. Code Matters, a workshop series at Columbia University, challenged girls to design websites/apps addressing social issues and taught girls how to pitch their ideas, thus instilling confidence and public speaking skills.

6. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

ThinkSTEAM has reached 600+ girls in 8 states and has held 40 workshops with organizations like Facebook,Google,PepsiCo,IBM,and Columbia University.ThinkSTEAM’s Student Leads program, launched in 2017, provides a platform for girls in other states to conduct workshops, spreading the STEAM movement to their communities. ThinkSTEAM has partnered with PepsiCo, the platinum sponsor of the MillionWomenMentors movement, to pilot a mentorship program for high school girls. Sponsored by HERlead, ThinkSTEAM held an all-day STEAM-A-THON with various workshops from IBM, PepsiCo, and Stanford students for 75 middle school girls. Many girls have no prior exposure to STEM in industry, but are so inspired to pursue STEAM after our workshops that they return to more. One of my favorite things to do after workshops is interview girls to hear their thoughts. Seeing the impact I have on them is incredible.

7. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

I am looking to expand ThinkSTEAM’s impact to many more girls globally who may not be exposed to the benefits of STEM. After conducting the ThinkBIG Challenge nationally two years in a row, I have expanded the 2018 challenge to a global scale. I hope to partner with more companies to hold workshops to inspire more girls to pursue STEM. Since our first Northeast STEAM-A-THON was a success, I aspire to make the STEAM-A-THON a nationwide event with STEAM-A-THONs happening in several states simultaneously, held by chapter leaders. After kickstarting our Student Leads program in five states in 2017, I am also looking to recruit more Student Leads in other states to encourage them to empower the girls in their communities to pursue STEM.

8. Future Support: What are the resources needed to make your vision a reality?

I aspire to expand ThinkSTEAM’s STEAM-A-THON and Student Leads Program to various states so that many girls can be educated and empowered to pursue STEM and spread the movement to other girls. Ashoka and T-Mobile will really be able to help ThinkSTEAM out by providing possible grants to fund STEAM-A-THONs and by providing a network of changemakers who are passionate about catalyzing social change and could help me expand ThinkSTEAM’s Student Leads Program. I feel that with more organization partnerships around the nation and with funding from sponsors, I can make my dream with ThinkSTEAM become a reality.

9. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100
  • Donations between $100-$1k
  • Donations between $1k-$5k

10. Ripple Effect: Please share some ideas of how you could partner with other changemakers or involve other young people as leaders in making a difference.

Through ThinkSTEAM, not only am I passionate about using technology to help others, but I am passionate about encouraging others to use technology for good. That was may main intent when I started ThinkSTEAM’s Student Leads Program to give other budding female STEMinists the platform to encourage other aspiring girls in their communities to pursue STEM. By partnering with other changemakers, I will meet rising thought-leaders who are passionate about creating social good, with projects and organizations that I can partner with to spread ThinkSTEAM’s impact to more girls through various STEAM workshops. I also hope to meet changemakers who can encourage girls in their communities to join ThinkSTEAM’s Student Leads Program, so that these girls will be empowered to create their own impact in society.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Social media
  • Recommended by others
  • Ashoka page or contact
  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Ariyan Miller

Hey There Fellow Changemaker,

Congrats on moving to the next phase. I wishing you the best of luck ! & I am sending love and light to all the positive things that you do.

Photo of Meagan Warren

What a great idea! Girls rock!!

Photo of Nanaefua Eshun

I commend you for the work you are doing to teach youth about STEAM. I believe its important to introduce this to young female students. This programs demonstrates the great work you started toward closing the gender gap. Continue to do the great work you are doing in the community.

Photo of Claudia Gourdet

Absolutely love this ! As a STEM enthusiast , this is what we need to engage more girls in the field and work toward closing the gender gap .

Photo of Jothi Ramaswamy

Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words :)