October 20, 2022
Celebrating Software.org’s Eighth Annual Girls Who Code Classroom
August 03, 2022
As digital transformation accelerates across every sector, the need for a skilled and diverse workforce has never been more acute. Despite half of the STEM workforce consisting of women, the share of women varies widely across STEM job clusters. According to the Pew Research Center, women remain unrepresented in engineering, computer, and physical science occupations. To ensure students have the opportunity to pursue careers in STEM fields, Software.org again partnered with Girls Who Code to host our eighth annual two-week Summer Immersion Program (SIP).
Students came from across the country to virtually participate in the intensive. The 65 students from 15 states and territories including Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Puerto Rico, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia.
For our first virtual event, Software.org brought together women from various BSA companies to offer some insight on their roles and how their career paths developed. BSA’s Kate Goodloe led the discussion with the following panelists: Anna Perkins, Director of Government Relations at Adobe; Neena Naidu, Director of Engineering at Autodesk; Yelena Vaynburg, Government and Regulatory Affairs Executive at IBM; Susan Mann, Senior Director of Intellectual Property Policy at Microsoft; Cheryl Davis, Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives at Oracle; Margaret Taylor, Senior Director of Public Affairs at Salesforce; and Anjelica Dortch, Senior Director of U.S. Government Affairs at SAP.
Our speakers shared stories about being women in tech spaces and what advice they would give to their younger selves. They emphasized the importance of finding mentors, taking risks, and engaging in opportunities when they present themselves.
“I think the biggest thing I can say in terms of where I’ve come from and where I’ve landed is to make sure to take calculated risk,” Anjelica Dortch said. “If you see something, and you see an opportunity, don’t be afraid to take it.”
For the second event, BSA CEO and Software.org President Victoria Espinel moderated a conversation with Dr. Alondra Nelson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Dr. Nelson described her career journey to the White House as a social scientist who was able to explore the entire spectrum of what it means to be a scientist. She explained how OSTP is focused on ensuring that more students have access to coding and technical skills through support of programs like Girls Who Code. In addition, looking at how to make sure that the technologies that we create can be used in ways that benefit their educational curriculum.
“Sometimes I feel like I didn’t have many role models and I think for many of us, it’s not a smooth pipeline,” Dr. Nelson said. “I think the coolest part of my job is being able to think about the science and technology education system and research system and think about how my experience could have been smoother and how science policy can contribute to that.”
During the second half of the panel, the students heard remarks from Senator Marsha Blackburn about the importance of diversity in STEM. Victoria Espinel introduced the final two speakers of the afternoon, Julia White, Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer and Executive Board Member at SAP, and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene. The speakers discussed the importance of students learning coding skills not only to equip themselves for their future, but also how these technologies can be used to solve problems across the country. Both speakers illustrated how technology is woven into every aspect of business in 2022 and will continue to be an important part of our economy.
“We need to reflect the society at large because every business is a technology business,” Julia White said. “There are more tech jobs being hired outside of the tech industry than inside the tech industry. We need great, diverse leadership in this part of the world.”
For the last event of the summer, Software.org invited professionals from across the Washington D.C. area to talk about their careers in technology-fields. Jesse Martin from BSA was joined by Margaret McGill, Technology Reporter at Axios; Grace McKinney, Partnership Manager at Tech Talent Project; Elizabeth Barczak, Professional Staff Member and Counsel at the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology; and Elham Tabassi, Chief of Staff at Information Technology Laboratory, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).
The panel offered a look at how many different paths there are not only in the field of technology, but also tech-adjacent fields. From journalism and policy to recruiting and science, the opportunities are truly endless when you take the first steps toward a career in STEM.
“We need to get everyone interested in coding to be competitive against other countries,” Elizabeth Barczak said. “Technical backgrounds are a huge advantage and I think it makes your job easier when you can understand the technology in policy.”
Our guest speakers during all three events emphasized that every sector is a software sector and offered advice about breaking into their fields despite being part of historically underrepresented minority groups. Together with programs like Girls Who Code, Software.org is working to guarantee diversity in all fields by introducing students to coding skills at a pivotal age.
Congratulations to the Girls Who Code Class of 2022 for their hard work and achievements this summer!
VP & General Manager, Software.org
Gideon Lett serves as Vice President & General Manager of Software.org: the BSA Foundation, overseeing the Foundation’s programs, operations, and outreach.