I Found the Path to Get Girls to Code

BlogHer Original Post

“You cannot be, what you cannot see”

When I ask girls what they want to do with their lives, they tell me they want to change the world. But when they think about working in computer science, they don’t feel included in that world.

They think of a nerdy guy at a computer, typing away. Women make the majority purchases, post on Facebook more, Tweet more, but aren't working in technology. It's very simple: We can't out-innovate unless the people who are using our products are building our products.

Having women on tech teams builds better, more innovative products that people will actually want to buy. But how can we hope to for a more equal playing field when we don’t yet know what that looks like? In order to change the landscape we know, we must first defy the cultural perception of what a computer scientist looks like, and we have to start young.

At Girls Who Code, we not only teach the technical skills girls will need to pursue 21st century jobs, but we expose girls to technologists who are changing the world. We help girls build the confidence they need not only to be successful, but to change the culture in a traditionally male-dominated industry.

We believe that to close the gender gap in technology, we have to inspire girls to pursue computer science by exposing them to real-life and on-screen role models.

We engage engineers, developers, executives, and entrepreneurs to teach and motivate the next generation. Our guest speakers, mentors, and instructors are leaders in their fields, working in positions our girls aspire to attain. When they’re are exposed to computer science, we’re not just igniting their passion, but they’re finding they’re really good at it, too.

Girls Who Code started as one summer-intensive program —teaching 20 girls in 2012 —to now teaching more than 10,000 girls between our Summer Immersion Program and Clubs by the end of 2015.

We have programs embedded in the nation’s leading technology companies. We have programs in community centers, libraries, and in homeless shelters. We have a Girls Who Code Club on a Native American reservation.

Girls all over the nation are creating apps that give back to their communities. We had a student design an algorithm to detect false positives in breast cancer screenings —that was really powerful.

One girl built a mobile app to help homeless youth find shelter.

One alumni, Helen, came to Girls Who Code with no background in computer science. She was passionate about solving world hunger and intended to study international development. After our program, she realized that if she wanted to change the world, technology could help her achieve her dream. After founding a Girls Who Code Club at her high school in Staten Island, she’s now studying computer science at Brown. 90% of our Summer Immersion Program alumni are majoring or planning to major in computer science or closely related field.

What I love about teaching girls is that when you teach one girl she’ll go on to teach others. Ninety-two percent of our Summer Immersion Program alumni have taught another girl how to code. When they graduate from our programs, they know they’ve learned something special. They leave understanding the value of sisterhood, which they will benefit them in college and in their careers.

Girls Who Code is aiming to reach a million girls by 2020, and we're thinking big. I envision a Girls Who Code club at every public library, in every school, in every community center. I want every girl from the prom queen to the bookworm to have access to this skill set and confidence in their ability to succeed in it.

I want young girls across all sectors to not feel excluded from the jobs they’ll need to be successful just because we live in a world that hasn’t seen what that looks like yet.

These girls are on fire. They just need the spark.

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