Juliette Bautista Barahona is a firm believer that tech is for everyone. It's the basis of her nonprofit Club Ability, which offers after-school STEM classes that serve low-income families, minorities and children with disabilities.
But after starting her nonprofit in 2020, Bautista soon realized helping kids get involved in science, technology, engineering and math wasn't enough; her students' moms could also benefit from the computer and language skills their kids were learning.
"We started with the kids and then we realized that when we said, 'OK, go and ask your mommy or your daddy for (homework help), the moms didn't know anything about computers," she said.
The need became even more apparent as Bautista interacted with Latina immigrants in Utah who were starting their own businesses. She recalled one instance where a business owner told her she used a pen and paper to keep track of her business rather than an app like Excel.
"The big barrier is technology and English," Bautista said. "They don't realize or see the opportunities they have."
Bautista has since expanded her work at Club Ability to offer a program in Spanish for women that covers basic computer skills and digital marketing. She's also working on a pilot program that pairs the women with English speakers with whom they can practice their language skills one on one.
The program is patterned after Bautista's own experience learning English after immigrating to Utah from Peru, where she worked in the tech industry for 15 years.
"It's hard when you are an immigrant here," she said. "You studied in your country and don't have family here — but you have the knowledge, the experience and the degrees."
Bautista says there is still a place in STEM for women who don't have an extensive tech background like herself. Bautista encouraged moms to not feel guilty or scared about pouring effort into their own dreams and careers.
"You don't need to be a Ph.D. or MBA or high school graduate. No, you only need to love your kids and teach them values. This is the power of a lot of moms," she said. "This is the idea, that more moms be a part of STEM and encourage their kids and see that we have a place (there)."
Club Ability is hoping to help empower moms with a free event in Spanish this Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to noon, at 659 S. 500 West in Salt Lake City. The event will feature addresses from female tech leaders in Utah as well as STEM activities.
More information about Club Ability is available on its website. Individuals can register for the event here.