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Tech Group 'Chicas Poderosas' Comes To FIU's Journalism School

Diego Saldana-Rojas

One Portuguese woman is set on the mission to educate women journalists on technology and leadership.

Fittingly, Mariana Santos spoke at FIU's Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communications this Tuesday, telling students and staff about her experiences working at the Guardian, in Latin America and in the current state of journalism.

After becoming a Knight fellow for the International Center for Journalists, Santos was assigned a job in Chile with newspaper La Tercera. In Santiago she met with a branch of Hacks/Hackers, a grassroots journalism organization. There, in April of 2013, she founded Chicas Poderosas.

“We believe the future of journalism is digital, definitely," said Santos, whose organization seeks to empower women in the field of communication through technology.

Another area her organization tries to improve on is the work among developers, designers and journalists. Chicas Poderosas hosts "hackathons" where individuals come together to create projects like news apps. To date the organization has held hackathons in Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Argentina with events planned for Bolivia, El Salvador and Guatemala.

“Chicas Poderosas tries to call the best in town in the fields of interactive storytelling and grab them together in an event where they give enlightening talks about their projects and their processes," Santos said.

Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver, FIU's dean emeritus of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, said the students are 69 percent Hispanic and 73 percent female, and "having a successful Latina female come in here and say, ‘Look, these are some of the kinds of things you can do and these are some of the possibilities for you,’ I think it’s real inspiring for our young ladies who are our students.”

Santos plans for a much larger event in Miami from April 17 to 20 with media professionals in the fields of data visualization and journalism,  half of whom are from Latin America.