William Blair was honored to host a group of Chicago elementary school girls for a hands-on learning session about 3D printing led by MakerGirl, a nonprofit with a mission to inspire females to study science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The firm’s Women’s Alliance and Women in Technology groups sponsored the event during Women’s History Month on March 22 at William Blair's global headquarters in Chicago. Colleagues paired up with 30 girls, ages 7 to 10, to create key chains, rockets, plaques, and other three-dimensional objects constructed out of plastic, using Tinkercad, an online CAD design modeling program, and high-tech printers.

From left, Kristina Blaschek, co-chair of William Blair’s Women’s Alliance, Maddie Brown, manager of events with MakerGirl, and Nancy Bonges, director of community engagement for William Blair.

“It’s an opportunity for us to engage with the community and augment what these budding young women are already learning in the classroom,” said Kristina Blaschek, co-chair of William Blair’s Women’s Alliance. “Before you know it, they will be entering college and beginning to consider their career paths.

“The MakerGirl event was a wonderful way to expose young girls to the topic of STEM as well as studies and careers in finance and other traditionally male dominated careers that they may not be aware of,” added Blaschek, who serves as director of technology solutions for William Blair Investment Management.

MakerGirl was co-founded by Elizabeth Engele and Julia Flesher in 2014 while they were students at the University of Illinois. They wanted to inspire female peers to pursue careers in STEM. Since then, the organization has educated over 6,200 students in nearly 30 U.S. states and four countries outside the United States. During the summer MakerGirl also runs a mobile program, bringing printers, laptops, and educational materials to conduct free sessions in underserved rural areas and marginalized communities.

Maddie Brown, who leads partnership events for MakerGirl and one of the instructors for the William Blair session, said the program teaches technical skills while encouraging students to use their imagination and creativity to solve problems. Brown loves seeing the girls come up with an idea on paper, working through the design process on the screen, and then discovering how to make the object they envisioned.

“I think it’s just a great metaphor for life and careers and everything else that they are going to be using this for throughout the rest of their lives,” Brown said.

William Blair’s Women’s Alliance aims to create a collaborative environment for sharing ideas, professional development, and awareness of the importance of gender diversity across the firm and in the broader community.

The firm’s Women in Technology program was established to bring awareness to the vital role women have in technology and to encourage more women to work in information technology.