As Jenine had so much good advice, we were hesitant to trim her brilliance, which is why we’ve split her interview into two parts. To read all about Jenine’s program and it’s growth, check out Part 1.
Now I am sure you read Dr in Jenine’s title. Jenine is a decorated university researcher. She’s an academic who turned her research into practice with the Tech Girls are Superheroes program. Jenine’s program helps girls to think freely. Girls imagine themselves as a superhero and how to use their superhero powers to solve problems. It is such a simple way to obliterate any barrier young girls may be facing. This program also instills the value of teamwork, as girls need to complement each other’s super powers and work together.
Jenine has an amazing energy and it’s wonderful to see it inspiring the next generation of girls. I am very excited that my daughter will grow up in a world that has someone like Dr Jenine Beekhuyzen aka Jewella looking out for her.
Do you think girls forget they have an inner superpower more than boys do?
In my experience, yes and there is lots of literature to support this. For example, lots of women feel they need to be 200% confident in their skills before applying for a job, whereas men may apply for it if they feel 50% confident. I have had both men and women tell me this.
Particularly working in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), if you are the only woman in the room you have to have some real confidence to get through that and be able to stand up for your intellect and your abilities. Knowing your inner superpower helps you be more confident.
Who is your Superhero?
I have had a number of female role models. I had a couple of female lecturers, Lisa and Sue who I still work very closely with many years later. If it wasn’t for them I certainly wouldn’t be doing anything that I am doing now. They exposed me to STEM’s gender problem and why it was a problem. We discussed how there were solutions out there, we just hadn’t yet found them yet. I think that’s why I am doing this. They took me under their wing and showed me really good leadership and that there’s lots of different ways to solve problems. I was very fortunate. So I feel like my social contract with the universe is to pass that on.
What’s one of your proudest moments?
I don’t know if it’s a moment but giving myself the confidence to believe in myself. That has not been an easy thing for me to do. I guess, like many women I talk to, we are scared of success in a lot of ways. What if it does actually work? What does that mean? I find that very challenging. If we scale up, what does that look like and how am I going to manage that? You just do it because you have to. You fake it all the time because you have to. I just did it and ended up here, and I know that if I don’t believe in myself, no one else will. I would encourage girls to learn that from a younger age than I did.
And there are endless proud moments with the girls. This year I took a group of girls to Silicon Valley to show off their app and they were proud ambassadors for Australia. I had a big part in creating that. A parent came to me early this year and told me two teachers approached her separately and said, “I don’t know what you are doing with your daughter, but keep doing it. She is participating in class, she is talking up and she is doing her school work.” Her mother put it down to the Search for the Next Tech Girl Superhero competition. Taking a group of low socio-economic girls into Bank of America in the middle of Sydney, and a parent said her daughter had only ever met stay at home Mums, and didn’t realise she could work somewhere like that.
What’s piece of advice would you give to future Tech Girl Superheroes?
Learn as much as possible, take it in, put your hand up and put yourself in situations that seem scary . I often say yes to things and then work out how to do it. Everyone is making it up as they go along and you just have to find a way of doing that too and making it seem convincing.
I would also read as much as possible, travel as much as possible and meet as many people as possible. That’s what my career allows me to do and that’s what I love, so it’s awesome.
What’s your secret superpower?
It depends on the situation. I think my ability to make connections and bring people together. I love talking to people.
If I talk to young girls I tell them it’s my smile because it’s almost physically impossible for someone to frown at you if you smile at them. So if they are finding themselves in a bullying situation or an uncomfortable situation, I say put your hands on your hips and give them a big smile and see what happens!
You can contact Jenine and her team at Tech Girls Movement Foundation.
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