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Thinking Ahead: How Do We Get More Girls In Tech?


This post is part of NYCEDC’s Thinking Ahead series, which features editorials from New York City leaders and influencers across key sectors and neighborhoods to foster dialogue around the issues impacting our city. 

Women are vital to New York City's economy.

Yet while they make up more than half of our workforce, they are underrepresented in the field of computer science. 

Enter Girls Who Code, a national non-profit whose goal is to provide computer science education and exposure to one million young women by 2020. Together with leading educators, engineers, and entrepreneurs, Girls Who Code has developed a new model for computer science education, pairing intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development with high-touch mentorship led by the industry's top female developers and entrepreneurs.

Its Summer Immersion Program, which kicks off on June 8 in 9 cities, provides seven weeks of intensive instruction in robotics, web design, and mobile development to female high school sophomores and juniors for free. No prior coding experience is necessary.

Launched in 2012 with one program in New York City, the Summer Immersion Program is tripling its reach this year. In its largest-ever expansion from 19 programs to 57, this year's program will empower 1200 girls to build careers in the fast-growing technology sector.

The following was written by Solomon Steplight, COO and CFO of Girls Who Code. He shares more on the exciting progress achieved thus far in bridging the gender gap, and offers suggestions on additional ways that local government can boost the momentum.

solomon steplight girls who codeA few weeks ago, I attended a meeting with some of the state’s top experts and policymakers about expanding broadband access in underserved areas and updating obsolete technology in schools. Many questions were raised, but no one asked the biggest question of them all—the one that bedevils CEOs and middle school teachers, corporate hiring executives, and young parents. It is a question that could define the future of the sector:

How do we get more girls in tech?

As the COO and CFO of Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit working to bridge the gender gap in technology, I think about this question every time a parent reaches out to us for suggested educational resources. This topic has also come up during my time as Finance Director in local government working with constituents. Libraries, schools, and community organizations are great resources, but how can we work with them to get girls involved in tech?

Even though women today make up more than half our country’s workforce, they hold only 25% of the jobs in STEM fields. And with the 1.4 million computing-related jobs expected in 2020, women are on pace to fill a mere 3% of them.

Since its founding in 2012, Girls Who Code has made huge strides toward eliminating this disparity. We partner with some of the nation’s biggest companies to provide Summer Immersion Programs for young girls. The programs offer seven weeks of intensive instruction in web development and design, robotics, and mobile development with mentorship and exposure led by the industry’s top female engineers and entrepreneurs.

girls who code

We are also proud to offer Girls Who Code Clubs, which will provide low-cost, high-impact after-school programming for 6,000 girls nationwide in 2015.

The Summer Immersion Programs started in New York City, and we have since expanded to ten other cities nationwide. This summer will be our biggest yet, with 13 programs in New York City and 57 across the country.

Despite the progress we are making—90% of our graduates have said they will major in a computer science-related field in college—there is much more that can be done to pave the way for a generation of female tech leaders.girls who code summer immersion

One way our local government can make a difference is by encouraging the creation of maker spaces in every neighborhood, which can be a safe venue for girls to engage in creative computer science activities. New York City’s biggest companies have proven to be energetic allies in this fight. That is why city officials need to continue exploring new avenues for tech based public-private partnerships to ensure that every girl in New York City is introduced to the language of the future.

New York City helped Girls Who Code's Summer Immersion Program expand from one program for 20 girls to 57 programs nationwide for 1,200 in four summers alone. It is the same city that my daughter and countless other girls who love technology call home.

And it is the city that has the power and tools to be the national leader in STEM education and employment for women and girls.

Get involved with Girls Who Code and learn more about NYCEDC's work to make tech more inclusive across the city. Join the conversation by telling us what you think about the future of NYC tech by tweeting #ThinkingAheadNYC on Twitter.



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