Several young women sat in a conference room with two long parallel tables, typing periodically or raising a hand while listening to a lecture about web development.
High School girls attended a 7-week program in D.C. where they gained skills in coding and other digital areas. (Photo by Naomi Harris )
The 19 high school girls are part of the first Washington D.C. Girls Who Code summer program. The organization partnered with AT&T to begin educating young women in technology in New York and has since spread to the District.
“Girls Who Code tries to alleviate that pressure because you are with all women who can come together and say that we are capable of coding,” Emma Stephenson, one of the teaching assistants, told the AFRO. “We are trying to take away the stigma that girls normally face. You can do it too.”
The program is structured to teach the girls about technology and computer science skills in a 7-week program. The girls receive a certificate after finishing the course.
“By 2020 there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computer science and computer related fields. But women, educated in the USA, are currently on pace to make that 3 percent,” Connie Bragg, a senior project manager at AT&T, said referencing the percentage U.S. women could hold in the technology workforce.
According to the website, there has been a gender gap in the computer science field since the 1980s when 37% of women graduated with computer science degrees. As of 2013, the latest figures available, the number has decreased to 18 percent.
“Everywhere they make it seem like women in STEM is not a thing that is common,” said Indy G., a 16-year-old student in the program, referring to courses in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Indy attends Nansemond River High School in Suffolk, Va.
According to the National Center of Women in Information Technology, 3 percent of Black women were part of the computing workforce in 2015.
The program exposes the girls to web development, design, robotics and mobile development. There are also mentorships and field trips to talk with industry leaders who are women such as Allison McMillan, an engineer at General Assembly and Donna Harris, co-founder and co-CEO of 1776, a global incubator for education, health, energy & sustainability, and transportation & smart cities startups.
The program now includes seven summer immersion programs across the country to offer girls a chance to learn more about the tech industry.
The girls in Washington D.C. will present their final technology projects on Aug. 11 at their graduation ceremony.
“I’ve always been interested in technology and how things work in general,” said Semira S., a 16-year-old student in the program. “I was actually looking for something like this for a long time.”