‘Girls Who Code’ to Spark IT Interest in Teens

Amid all the hand-wringing about the dearth of women in technology, a new initiative called “Girls Who Code” aims to do something about it. It’s also attracted the backing of a number of tech titans, including Twitter, Google and eBay.

The eight-week program, which begins this month, seeks to expose 20 teen girls from underserved communities in New York City to intensive tech courses such as web development, robotics and app development.

And although the program is launching in New York City, its goal is to expand to other major cities next year.

One Effort Leads to Another

Program founder Reshma Saujani, a former deputy public advocate in New York City, says that during her unsuccessful 2010 run for U.S. Congress she saw the latest technology and labs in wealthier neighborhoods, such as Manhattan’s Upper East Side. But in poorer neighborhoods, Saujani would find situations like one computer in a church basement.

Saujani told The Wall Street Journal:

Women are going to be left behind. Technology has the potential to create income inequity and we need to do something about it.

And she told The Huffington Post:

From the beginning, we wanted to create this sisterhood…No doubt they’ll need it with the “brogrammer” culture too often at play.

Sobering Numbers

According to the Girls website, 54 percent of college graduates are women but they make up just 14 percent of computer science grads. Part of the effort will focus on creating a culture for success.

Even with the low numbers of women coming out of college with tech degrees, there are more sobering statistics as women pursue their careers:

  • In May, the unemployment rate for women in computer and mathematical occupations stood at 6.8 percent, compared 2.3 percent for men.
  • The percentage of CIOs who are women dropped from 11 percent in 2011 to 9 percent this year, according to a recent Harvey Nash survey.
  • Thirty percent of 450 companies in the Harvey Nash poll said their IT departments have no women in management positions at all.

In research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee of 3,700 women engineers who had left the field, a third left because they didn’t like the workplace climate, their boss or culture while almost half left because of working conditions, too much travel, lack of advancement or low salary. (They could choose more than one answer). And despite stereotypes about women’s family obligations, only one in four women cited that as a reason for leaving the field.

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Comments

  1. BY BambiB says:

    Despite being politically incorrect, men’s and women’s brains continue to function differently. That’s why there are so few women in tech – their minds aren’t (generally) compatible. While everyone seems to be willing to acknowledge that women are generally better at communications, when it comes to advanced math, physics or other fields that are abstract, women underperform for the same reasons that they outperform in communications. Their brains are different and work differently.

    Still, the politically-correct continue to insist not only on equal opportunity, but equal outcomes. It matters not that they are trying to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. No amount of failure will deter them from their Sisyphean task.

    Is there any logic involved? No. Logic would say, “find the people with the most aptitude and focus training efforts on them.” Unfortunately for the “I am woman, hear me roar” crowd, those with the most aptitude are overwhelmingly male.

    • BY ProgrammerJill says:

      I am a woman and I have been a programmer for over 20 years. Saying that women’s minds aren’t “(generally) compatible” is ridiculous. That is like saying men can’t be good cooks because their minds aren’t compatible with the nurturing process need to create a good combination of textures and flavors. And yet there are many excellent male chefs around the world. What ALL children need is exposure and opportunity. Denying any child an opportunity because you think their brains aren’t compatible with said opportunity only shows your individual bias.

  2. BY RLOWERY says:

    I’ve been a system admin, programmer, architect and manager over the course of 22 years, and I’ve got to say: This is not something that can be thought of in simplistic terms, It’s simply NOT a simple topic. It’s definitely not something a bureaucrat is ever going to be able to grasp because it’s not something that’s academic in nature. It’s sociological and psychological, sure, and we’ve seen what those fields of study result in.

    My best experience has been those that had a healthy mix, men, women and ethnic diversity. There are lots of stereotypical things that can be said about all the above, but here’s the long and short of it:

    Everyone brings something unique and different to the equation. In situations where these differences are leveraged for the benefit of the group, the result is exceptional. Yes, there are going to be differences of opinion, and yes there is going to be conflict. The problems show up when leaders take sides on a personal or political basis, instead of treating the problems being worked on as the primary focus. This is a leadership problem, not a management problem. Leaders, lift the group out of the personal and into the reasonable and practical, inspiring confidence in their teams (regardless of age, sex, race, etc…) by encouraging the discourse rather than punishing those that engage in constructive debate. Sure there are limits that need to be applied, but that’s where our personal responsibility kicks in. Poor leaders result in poor teams, with unhealthy dynamics. Fix the problem, find a better leader.

    If you truly believe there is are physiological differences, and I can’t say whether or not it’s something that can be proven (not my field), then what can you learn from that? Isn’t it just possible (probable in my book) that those differences can and should be leveraged for the benefit of improving how we conduct business? I know a lot of programmers don’t want to admit it, but they are in business just like everyone else, and how you interact with peers, managers, and clients all results in your business success.

    My best programming partners have been women, I can’t say if that’s just luck-of-the-draw historically, or coincidence. I don’t know, since it’s just an observation. I’ve found I can work a little easier with them. My area of expertise is in back end data and process and I’m naturally very process oriented. My better partners have generally been more results oriented and as such have provided a balancing point-of-view. I’ve seen the opposite combination in other teams.

    Are some people not suited to work with one another? Sure? Who’s fault is that though? Consider what concepts you are willing to stand up on and how solid they are, before you discount someone else just because their idea is “different”. Different isn’t necessarily wrong.

  3. BY Jason says:

    Here’s what I think. I agree partially with bambib about women being great social communicators. I believe that the lack of women in I.T. is the reason for the lack of women in I.T. What I’m trying to say is that a woman generally feels like she’s on her own when surrounded by a majority of a male- dominated field and has no common ground (or feels intimidated) when there is no other female to communicate with on their level.

    I believe that women are fully capable of the same technical capabilities as us men. There are just the social roadblocks or speed bumps that later on end up just being detoured into another field altogether.

    This is just my opinion.

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