Less than one in five computer science graduates in the United States are women. If this graduation rate remains steady, females will make up only 22 percent of working computer scientists by 2027.
This would represent a significant decrease when compared to the recent past. In 1995, the overall percentage of female computer scientists was 37 percent. Because women have been surpassing men in college graduation rates since the 1980s, there is clearly a gender-based disparity in the field of computer science.
Girls Who Code (GWC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in the computing field. The programs they offer nationwide give girls of all ages the opportunity to learn coding skills by exposing them to the field of computer science through curriculum and projects. These are programs designed to create a sense of community amongst participants and provide lifelong support in hopes of keeping students in the field.
Hayley Howell, one of Spokeo’s 2019 Summer Software Development interns, decided to study Computer Engineering because she joined a Girls Who Code summer immersion program the summer prior to her senior year of high school. After being intimidated by the rigors of her AP Computer Science as a junior, she became discouraged and decided to drop the course. When she came across an ad for Girls Who Code on online, she decided to give computer science another try.
It was in this program that she learned how to code and ended up building a minimum viable product for a fashion e-commerce platform that facilitates clothing exchanges. She also gained a mentor through the program who at the time was a Senior Director at Electronic Arts — they still keep in touch to this day. Graduating from her GWC program and successfully demonstrating a product that she built gave Hayley the confidence to pursue computer engineering in college. Hayley later returned as a teaching assistant to the same GWC summer immersion program after her freshman year at university. She felt compelled to give back and encourage the next class of young women to learn to code and pursue a computer science career. She wanted to set an example as a woman in technology.
Girls Who Code is so impactful because they’ve created a unique classroom atmosphere that focuses on sisterhood, female empowerment and project-based learning. They host a variety of female speakers in all of their programs in order to challenge the traditional perception of who coders are. This type of representation is especially encouraging to the young women who will most likely find themselves in male dominated environments both academically and professionally should they decide to stick with computer science long term.
GWC is working hard to change this reality but for now, that is the situation that many young women studying computer science will face. Girls Who Code has such a high degree of impact because they empower diverse groups of students, build their confidence, and expose them to the technology industry from a female perspective. Any time Hayley feels discouraged she remembers her Girls Who Code experience, which serves as a reminder of the reason she wants to pursue a career in technology.
Are you interested in partnering with Girls Who Code or signing a family member up for one of their programs? Learn more at their website: https://girlswhocode.com/about-us/