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Local charter school is bridging the gender gap in tech

On Saturday morning, the Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy opened the doors of its brand new Hutton Gymnasium to the VEX Robotics competition.

At 8 AM, dozens of students filled the gym with their robots.

Looking around the room, one could see future scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and more.

One other prominent detail that came to life in the room is the gap between men and women in technology.

The Chattanooga Girls Leadership is working actively to close that gap.

"Our school is all about STEM. Science, technology, engineering, and math," said ninth grader Anyang Ayai.

Principal Maryo Beck spoke of the importance of STEM to the core curriculum of CGLA, "we know STEM is important. We know sometimes girls are not assured into the STEM environment and we're really trying to get them involved."

According to the National Center for Women, women accounted for only 25% of the computing workforce in 2015.

Ayai found that number unacceptable.

"That number is way too low. We need to work together to bring that up," she said.

That figure drops to an dismal 3% for African-American women.

Shelli Brasher is the regional support manager for REC foundation, the group behind the VEX Robotics competitions.

She believes competitions like this one will help raise that number.

"Once the girls get involved in engineering programs like this. Once they meet other women in engineering, they lose that stereotypical image of what an engineer looks like," Brasher told NewsChannel 9.

The robotics team at CGLA is named the Mustang Innovators.

While they weren't able to compete in Saturday's competition, they are looking forward to the next competition in March.

Many of them are preparing for careers in STEM fields like medicine and engineering.

They gain strength from one another whenever someone tells them they can't achieve their dreams.

"We should all be able to know we can do anything we want to do. No matter our gender or color. That's what our team is all about," said one member.

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