Girls who Code - gender parity by 2020
Internet pioneer and 2013 QEPrize winner Marc Andreessen and Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen donated $500,000 to three non-profit organisations dedicated to promoting diversity in tech. We previously sat down with Code2040’s Laura Weidman Powers and learned about how they open doors into the tech world for minority students. This month, we spoke to Reshma Saujani, founder, CEO, and Chair at Girls Who Code.
Reshma is passionate about inspiring and equipping girls to pursue opportunities in computing. The vision of Girls Who Code is ambitious: gender parity by 2020. Currently, only 25% of tech and computing jobs are filled by women, and women are 12% of computer science graduates. Girls Who Code aims to reach a quarter of the adolescent girls in the US who will need to be exposed to computer science to attain gender parity – that’s 1 million girls by 2020. Reshma embarked on this huge project after witnessing the stark gender divide in tech and the digital divide in New York City schools. The first Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program was developed “after countless meetings with educators, non-profit leaders, and computer science experts.” That first event had 20 girls, but Girls Who Code quickly expanded into 15 cities, stretching from San Francisco to Chicago to Washington, D.C. Its unique, holistic model of seven weeks of intensive instruction in a wide variety of computer science subjects paired with direct mentoring from top women in tech has reached thousands of young women – with nearly every alumna saying she is definitely or more likely to study computer science at university.
Reshma insists that Girls Who Code is even more: “Girls Who Code is a movement […] we are constantly working to find new models and partnerships that can inspire more girls to learn to code.” True to this vision, Girls Who Code has branched into clubs, teachers, and now an alumnae network: “We now have thousands of graduates from our Summer Immersion Program and Clubs, and we have to make sure these girls continue to pursue technology as they head into college and careers by forming a powerful alumnae network. The best part of this challenge is the opportunity to connect girls [who] share a passion for technology, and the common experience of being part of Girls Who Code.” A huge part of that common experience is about “sisterhood.” Reshma believes that what these girls do for each other, “the way they collaborate, lift each other up, and inspire one another” is ultimately what will “transform the culture of the tech industry.”Girls Who Code will use the donation from Marc and Laura to increase both the number of girls they reach and the long-term impact of the movement.
Reshma feels a real sense of urgency: “We're running out of time. The future of innovation depends on us closing the gender gap, and we can't afford to let change happen gradually – we need to solve the pipeline problem today.” Girls Who Code has proven that if girls have the opportunity, they will fight for the rest: “The girls have taught me a lot about dedication and perseverance. We have girls who spend hours commuting to and from the Summer Immersion Program every day, who don't have access to computers at home, or anyone encouraging them, but they don't give up. By the end of the summer, they build products and stand on stage in front of CEOs to pitch them.”Girls Who Code will be taking applications for their summer 2015 program in January.
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