May 17, 2019
Software.org Aims to Inspire Girls to Code
June 25, 2018
BSA foundation works with Girls Who Code to diversify software workforce
WASHINGTON — June 25, 2018 — With software jobs expected to grow dramatically in the coming years, efforts to diversify the technology workforce must expand even more quickly today. That’s why Software.org: the BSA Foundation is returning to the classroom this summer to help high school girls from across the Washington region learn to code.
Software.org’s 2018 Girls Who Code summer class of 23 young women – one of two such classes in the DC region – kicks off today and will teach girls how to master languages like HTML, CSS, and Python to build websites, program apps, and more. This is Software.org’s fourth year sponsoring a classroom with Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit that aims to close the gender gap in tech.
“We talk every day about the need to diversify the technology workforce,” said Chris Hopfensperger, Executive Director of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. “Girls Who Code gives us the opportunity to have a direct impact. Most of these young women have little to no experience in coding when they first start the class, but they come away feeling confident enough to call themselves ‘coders’ and ‘programmers,’ and see a future in tech.”
Software.org’s class won’t just include screen time. The students will also hear from female leaders in tech and policy. Toward the end of the summer, the girls will participate in a hackathon on Capitol Hill, hosted in partnership with AT&T, where they’ll highlight state- and district-level trends in tech for Members of Congress. By going beyond the classroom, Software.org hopes to create a feedback loop for these young girls to see other women in tech and be inspired to follow their lead.
“Girls Who Code isn’t just about learning to make a website or learning to make a robot dance,” said a 2016 BSA alumna. “[It also] teaches you to take chances, make mistakes, and get messy. It teaches you to be brave in a small way, so eventually you can be brave in a bigger way.”
Programs like Girls Who Code matter because the tech industry has more jobs than it can fill. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million computing job openings, but only 400,000 graduates with the skills to fill them – that’s less than two years away. Tech also faces a gender gap – only 24 percent of computer scientists in 2017 were women.
While girls’ interest in STEM often wanes throughout their entire academic careers, Girls Who Code’s research found that the sharpest drop occurs between ages 13 and 17. They set out to change that by offering coding classes to girls after school and during the summer, with help from organizations like Software.org, to encourage their passion for problem-solving in STEM.
“Software is changing our lives in so many ways. We need to ramp up efforts to get more young women and girls involved in creating that software, and the first step is teaching them how to code,” said Victoria Espinel, President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. “When coders come from different backgrounds and have diverse perspectives, our software becomes more innovative, creative, and secure.”
Software.org’s efforts are inspiring action. In a survey last year, 100 percent of the Software.org 2017 alumnae reported they were more interested in computer science, 71 percent said they intend to major in computer science, and 82 percent plan to pursue a career in technology or a computing field.
“Before, this wasn’t really something I was focused on,” said a 2017 alumna. But after participating in the program, it’s now “something I really see in my future. I want to work in robotics, maybe artificial intelligence.”
“We believe that much of the growing demand for coders can and should be filled by young women like the ones we meet through Girls Who Code,” Hopfensperger said. “It’s incumbent on all of us to show young women that there is a place in STEM, in tech, and certainly in the software industry for them.”
Follow updates on our Girls Who Code classroom at software.org/girlswhocode.