Sunday, December 2, 2012

GIRLS WHO CODE

Girls Who Code is a new organization working to educate, inspire and equip 13- to 17-year-old girls with the skills and resources to pursue opportunities in technology and engineering.

This organization is doing a terrific job of raising the visibility of closing the gender gap in the computing profession. Their publicity launch last summer touted articles by the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Time and many more, plus financial support from Google, E-Bay, General Electric and Twitter.  

 Anneke Jong of the Daily Muse summarized the background and vision of Girls Who Code in this excellent article.  The goal is to teach 1 million girls to code by 2020.

The pilot program was an 8 week summer course for 20 high school girls in New York.  Two months later, these girls presented their work in a gala celebration at the New York Stock Exchange.

Another article by Bianca Bosker in the Huffington Post features the gala itself and also links to a video of Simon Constable from the Wall Street Journal interviewing Reshma Saujani, the Founder of Girls Who Code.   Here are some highlights of the interview, which is worth listening to in full:


Wall Street Journal:  How to get more women into computing and engineering?

Reshma Saujani:  Even though women are 56% of all college graduates, only 1 out of  7 engineers are women...   74% of young girls say they are interested in STEM, but then they're not opting to go into STEM careers...  Girls want to change the world.  They're passionate about their communities.  So part of what we are doing at Girls Who Code is bringing in hundreds of speakers who say that technology can be used to solve blindness, technology can be used to solve poverty, technology has so many different aspects in making your community better...
We had a really interesting week last week.  We asked the girls to design a product, and all the girls decided to design a mobile app.  And all the applications that they came up with … one was how to find a protest in my neighborhood,  how to find a family-friendly place for my dog, how to get the fastest route to class – and not one game, even though 60-70% of all mobile apps are games.  They think about the world differently.

WSJ:  Do those apps have the same appeal to the general population?  Because you have to get people to use the apps as well.

RS:  Absolutely.  Well guess what?  85% of all consumer purchasers are women.

WSJ:  Okay. .. So what else happens in class?  Is that coding or what?

RS: We’re teaching the fundamentals of engineering.  We taught them Scratch, robotics, how to have a conversation with an engineer and articulate your business plan, how to build a web application, how to build a mobile app.  We’re going to have a competition at the end of the summer.

WSJ:  What else do you have planned for this?   I mean a course which is 8 weeks is great, but then you go back . . .

RS:  It’s not a summer course;  it’s a movement.  It’s a movement to get girls all around the country to raise their hand and say “teach me how to code.”  It’s to change this perception that coding is not for them, and it’s to have a different conversation about education in our country.  I believe that computer science should be mandatory not only in high schools but in middle schools.  I mean, what I learned, what you learned, what your father learned has not even changed, even though the world has changed so much.  Part of Girls Who Code is to have that conversation --- that technology plays a role in all our lives, that every kid, regardless of if they want to be a doctor or a politician needs to learn it.

Girls Who Code plans to expand to another 6 to 8 cities across the country in 2013.  Kudos and all the best to Girls Who Code in the future.

P.S.  Here's an excellent short video featuring Reshma Saujani (Founder of Girls Who Code) with great talking points for why teaching girls to code is critically important, right now.   Well worth watching -- maybe even memorizing.   (Added 12-9-2012)

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