Iowa State has made a point of promoting women in science and technology through the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, but the Williams sisters have taken that a step further.
More specifically, they went to the White House.
Cassidy and Camryn Williams, a junior and a freshman respectively, were invited to be two of the 10 women at the Tech Inclusion Summit.
Their presence was on behalf of the National Center for Women and Information Technology, an organization that they stayed involved with after each winning the organization’s Aspirations Award in high school.
The summit’s purpose was to brainstorm ways to generate higher numbers of science and technology graduates. The sisters’ focus was on how women in technology can be more progressive thinkers in the field.
“There’s just a real need for women in technology, and that was kind of the main point of the trip,” Cassidy said.
Camryn explained that by 2016, 1.5 million technological jobs are projected to exist, 29 percent of which will be filled by women and 30 percent of which will not be filled at all.
Although they are originally from Illinois, the Williams sisters are the first to win this recognition on behalf of Iowa.
“Just being in the White House was amazing … I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it was to be there,” Camryn said.
The group of ladies attending the summit were from all over the country and represented other major universities, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, among others.
“My sister and I, we were kind of the state school girls, which was kind of fun,” Cassidy said.
The students were among some of the leading professionals in their field, including Mitchell Kapor.
“Basically he invented the spreadsheet,” Cassidy explained.
Afterwards, the sisters went to dinner with Rane Johnson-Stempson, the education and scholarly communication principal research director for Microsoft.
As for their professional aspirations, Cassidy and Camryn have discussed the possibility of starting a business together down the road.
The trip to Washington, D.C. allowed them to explore this possibility further by providing them with the opportunity to network.
“There were so many … really big names and important people there, but meeting the people from the start-ups kind of gave us a perspective of what everything is going to be like for us probably within the next five to ten years,” Cassidy said.
Both sisters concluded that the best part about the trip was getting to share it as sisters.
“It’s really fun to have someone that is kind of your automatic best friend wherever you go,” Cassidy said.
She went on to add that people at the summit commented on the fact that, precisely because they are sisters, the two had a tendency to stand out.
Their interest in technology became prominent in high school, but it actually began even further back than that.
“We weren’t Disney princess girls,” Camryn explained, saying that she and Cassidy grew up playing with Legos and puzzles.
One thing is for sure, their passion for technology is as strong as ever, and they are keen to share it.
“If you’re at all considering taking a computer science class,” Camryn said, “just go for it.”