The official blog of the organization Girls Who Code is full of entries by bright, passionate women who are using their knowledge of coding to pursue their dreams.
Coding, for those who might be slightly vague on it, is the skillset used to create websites, apps and computer software – so, super important in the internet-connected world we live in today.
Maddie Zaloom, a 16 year-old from L.A. who recently participated in a Girls Who Code course, writes: “Anyone can code. I’m not a genius, I’m a girly-girl. I never thought that I could code because I wasn’t the stereotype of a programmer. But I CAN do it and so can you.”
But girls like Zaloom are few and far between. According to the College Board, in 2013 only 18.5 percent of AP Computer Science test-takers were girls — and women made up just 14 percent of computer science grads.
Okay, so girls are more drawn to liberal arts programs. You might be asking yourself, what’s the problem with that?
Over the next decade, computer science jobs will be one of the highest-paying sectors in the United States. According to The U.S. Department of Labor, by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings for the taking. To reach gender parity in the field would mean women need to fill 700,000 of those predicted job openings.
But with only 0.4 percent of high school girls saying they plan to choose computer science as their major, the vast majority of jobs in this growing, male-dominated field will continue to be filled by men.
There’s such a disparity that several tech organizations across the U.S. have begun investing time and money into finding a way for to make tech jobs more appealing – and accessible – to women. These organizations recognize girls need other women coders as role models and the encouragement that computer science isn’t just a boys’ club.
Notable organizations and initiatives include:
Girls Who Code’s mission is to “inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills to pursue 21st century opportunities.” They provide computer science education through clubs, summer immersion programs and online resources. Their goal is to close the gender gap and reach 1 million young women with exposure to computer science education by 2020.
An initiative of Google, Made with Code provides resources ranging from games to partnerships with organizations where girls can learn to code. The website also lets girls create fashion designs and animate animals to illustrate how coding can be fun. Plus, there are videos of women who are using code in fashion, animation and more to inspire young women to pursue a career in computer science.
A nation-wide initiative funded by donors like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Code.org is providing resources to make computer science a bigger part of education. The organization has already partnered with 100 of the nation’s largest school districts to offer online courses in over 45 languages. One of their biggest goals is to increase diversity in computer science programs by reaching female and minority students.
Girl Develop It is a nonprofit that provides resources for adult women who want to learn web and software development. They have chapters in 52 cities where they provide classes, as well as online resources for women to learn coding.
Young women like Girls who Code alum Zaloom are the face of the future, and they’re helping to change gender stereotypes. Corporations and donors from Google to Mark Zuckerberg hope to reach girls like Zaloom and encourage them to pursue education in computer science. Whether or not they choose a career in a technical field, learning to code empowers women – and gives them the tools to create what they are passionate about.