“I really appreciate the environment you cultivated for us. It was very collaborative, supportive, loving, nonjudgemental, and non-cliquey... We all naturally were able to talk to one another and work together. I also really enjoyed the discussions and readings (more than I thought I would). Overall, this week has been eye-opening and life-changing because it has taught me really cool skills and boosted my confidence in myself tremendously. This group made me feel comfortable to speak my mind and just be myself.”— Sarah, 16 years old
Girls Garage is a nonprofit design and construction school for girls and gender-expansive youth ages 9-18. We provide free and low-cost programs in carpentry, welding, architecture, engineering, and activist art to a diverse community of 300 students per year. Integrating technical skills, unconditional support, and community leadership, our programs equip youth with the personal power and literal power tools to build the world they want to see. In our 3,600-square-foot workshop in Berkeley and under the guidance of our highly skilled all-female and nonbinary instructors, we invite students to bring their creative voice and put technical skills to work on real-world building projects that live in our community.
To date, participants have built 171 projects ranging from furniture for a domestic abuse shelter to a greenhouse for a community garden and fruit stand for an organization serving refugee families. All teen participants attend the program at no cost to their families. 82% of our teenage students identify as youth of color, and 56% of students attend Girls Garage for 3 or more years.
“Girls Garage is a place of transformation. As I learned about power tools, I built a house, practiced leadership skills, and learned how to fear less and build more.”— Ellah, 13 years old
“The experience was so amazing for me because I got to show my work to school kids, teachers, and parents that use the classrooms and school space. I am so grateful that I got the experience to create a powerful symbol of hope and interconnectedness. I don’t think I could have gotten the same experience anywhere else, creating powerful artwork alongside girls my age, artwork with a social justice purpose.”— Keiani
“If this place has taught me anything, it’s to be resilient and to be fearless. So I look forward to the next project. I look forward to the next commitment. I look forward to the next build. I look forward to being fearless.”— Nautica, 15 years old
Why It Matters
We’ve all seen the statistics that paint a bleak picture of female underrepresentation in STEM and the trades. These are problems of access, support, culture, and inclusion. These statistics represent more, however, than an unbalanced, unequal workforce; they are a dire implication of who gets to have a say in the authorship of our built world. What might our cities, technology, and environments look like if they were created by women, queer women, women of color, nonbinary individuals? We believe that addressing the problems of underrepresentation and retention of women in these career paths is not merely for statistical gain, but for the betterment of our world.
We are also living in a time in which teen girls face the intersectional pressures of race, identity, nationality and citizenship, mental health, body image and consent, academic stresses, and more. In traditional public schools, there are few supports available for the whole girl, honoring and taking into account all the socioemotional needs of a young woman.
Lastly, there is a common narrative that girls “aren’t interested,” or are “shy,” or “need to be encouraged.” This, too, is part of the problem. From what we’ve witnessed at Girls Garage, the narrative is quite the opposite: girls are hungry to be builders, leaders, to be given space, to take up space. They are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
STEM workforce that is female
construction jobs held by women
girls reporting increased confidence and interest in STEM and building trades because of Girls Garage
program sessions offered each year