I recently came across the Girls Who Code program when it was discussed where I work. What a terrific way to support and encourage young girls to get into computer science!
Girls Who Code was founded by Reshma Saujani in 2012 after she entered a race for Congress in 2010. At first she taught 20 girls in New York but now the program reaches 40,000 young women in all 50 states. The girls are creating programs to make the world a better place and to improve their own lives going forward.
Participants may come from impoverished backgrounds like Appalachia, areas of New York’s Bronx borough, or downtown Los Angeles. Or they may come from more affluent neighborhoods where even they haven’t been taught they can be just about anything they want to be, if they set their minds to it. That’s instead of being the neighborhood host for MLM parties, flipping burgers for years, or other dead end jobs. The average individual absolutely cannot support a family on those kinds of income.
As a woman, you may not have the challenging opportunity to be a stay-at-home Mom. If you can do that, more power to you, but in today’s world, chances are high you will need to return to the workforce at some time during your marriage. Getting your credentials in something like computer science, and then keeping current with what’s going on in the world of well-paying work, will stand you in good stead.
What thinking dad or mom doesn’t want their daughters to be able to support themselves while doing something wonderful for humankind at the same time? Even deeply conservative and old-fashioned parents don’t really choose to raise their grandchildren after a tragedy. They do that out of love and duty but that’s very different than babysitting for a time while their widowed/divorced daughter works at an outside job that pays reasonably well or very well and she can get back on her feet.
Too many girls are missing out on career opportunities! Two-thirds of girls between the ages of 6 and 12 are interested in computing programs. Two thirds of them! More than half of those lose interest between the ages of 13 and 17, probably because math and the hard sciences can be so demanding and teachers so unapproachable. I vividly remember hearing, “You’re supposed to get this the first time!”
Only 4% of female college freshmen are still interested in computer science. Yet careers in the future will revolve around artificial intelligence and robotics in all fields. Code tells a computer what to do!
In 2017 well over 100 corporate partners support the Girls Who Code programs, but more involvement is needed. They also need male and female volunteers to teach the free summer immersion programs and to get additional free coding club programs up and running for the youngsters.
I can tell you I would have been interested to find computer programs presented in an enjoyable way at the age of any of these girls. But the culture was too stifling a few years back. Being a nerd is bad enough. You are an outcast.
Being a girly nerd is even harder to tolerate since teenage girls in the “In” crowd can be mean and spiteful now and then. Ladies, you can be a nerd and still be feminine, if that’s what you want. There is room for many talents and abilities, even if we end up starting our own clique to improve our own lives.
In addition to the Girls Who Code website, hear more from Reshma Saujani in her excellent TED talk: Teach Girls Bravery, Not Perfection. She starts out talking for a few minutes about a political run for office but stay with her. She’s making a point and she has a lot of passion for bringing out the best in girls, for developing their talents, for not being afraid of being imperfect as they learn. We are all imperfect beings on our way to perfection. Guys just hide it better. They usually haven’t been taught there’s something wrong with them if they get an answer wrong.