While working at Walt Disney Imagineering as a behavioral sciences researcher, Emily Harburg didn’t always feel comfortable speaking up.
“Every day I’d be in meetings where I was the only woman in the room,” she says. “It took a while to get over the feeling that I didn’t belong in that space.”
Experiences like that one inspired Harburg ’18 PhD to team up with Anna Bethune ’19 MA and Jen Kamins to build Brave Initiatives, a series of workshops and camps for girls designed to promote self-efficacy and develop confidence in coding. To date, more than 700 girls have participated in Brave programs around the world, and nearly 90% continue to code.
After receiving encouragement from a female mentor to get her doctorate, Harburg came to Northwestern to learn how to design technology that supports learning in the Technology & Social Behavior doctoral program.
As a test of her learning, Harburg developed a mobile app called Pairachute that pairs newcomers with mentors in the tech industry. The app is used today by Brave Initiatives, and Harburg updates it frequently by adding mentors she meets through networking to support aspiring female coders.
“For me, the most important thing you can do as a leader is to lift up others,” she says.
Harburg, who lives in Boston, currently manages a team of programmers as director of emerging technology and innovation at EF Education First, an international education company. She is working with her team to design technology to support learning, connection and exploration as students travel the world with EF.
“Designing technology that helps people better connect with the world and look out rather than down, these types of projects — the ones that can totally change our relationship with learning — are the ones I’m most passionate about and why I decided to do the work that I do,” she says.