16, STEM advocate, founder and executive director of WiTech.org (Women in Technology)
For many, it takes years—even decades—to realize their life’s purpose. But for Audrey Pe, it came to her at an early age.
Initially taking interest in the natural sciences, Audrey’s fascination for tech began when she came across a coding game in her elementary years. Sheer curiosity led her to learn more about it (HTML, CSS) through personal research and signing up for online courses. “Not a lot of girls in school wanted pursue tech, maybe just about three,” she says. But this only fueled her passion for STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) further, especially since realizing that women in this particular field are underrepresented. “There is more than just Sheryl Sandberg,” she says in jest. So Audrey decided to help close the gender gap by putting up WiTech.org, initially a blog that puts the spotlight on inspiring women in technology and their stories. But WiTech, with the help of nine other diverse girls with the same passion, eventually evolved into a community organization with the goal “to launch the first Women in Tech Conference (WitCon) for students in the Philippines on March 2018.” Here, attendees will benefit from mentorship from experts in the field. Interestingly though, the event will not just include girls (despite the name), but boys, too. Audrey points out, “it’s not an us versus them,” but rather working together to ensure that there are more people involved in bettering the world through tech. “It starts with upbringing and changing the stigma...[and] WitCon will socialize them (girls and boys) to think liberally.” Such school of thought she credits to her parents, particularly her dad whom she says didn’t raise her to live up to stereotypes but rather break them.
Audrey’s Pe ultimate dream is to become a science journalist after finishing her studies. But considering the 16-year-old’s impressive resume—including regular contributions to The Manila Bulletin since age ten, an award winning essay on climate change and her experiences with the Model United Nations—we see it happening sooner than later. And in case we failed to mention, Audrey also plays competitive tennis, so there’s really no limit to what she and a new generation of young women can achieve.