“Code.” That’s how Reshma Saujani filled in the blank in 2012 when the former NYC deputy public advocate announced a new initiative to introduce girls to the power of the tech space and their potential within it.
Increasingly, the modern day women’s movement has gained momentum with a speed that is remarkable even for the lightning fast pace at which we live ensconced within our own technology-driven worlds. Perhaps in a few years, it will be equally probable that it is a woman who is developing the products and programs that make it so.
After all, the statistics are staggering. Visit the Girls Who Code website and you’ll learn that the number of computer science graduates from American institutions of higher education has decreased by 25% since 1984. Women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but hold only 25% of jobs in the technical and computing fields. 74% of girls express interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) while in middle school, but a paltry 0.3% of girls select computer science when high school comes around.
When Saujani saw firsthand the paucity of girls in technology classrooms in schools across the nation while she was on the campaign trail, she decided to work to close the gap. And that was the inception of an idea that has turned into a an initiative designed to educate, inspire, and motivate girls to pursue STEM fields.
Recently launched in Spring 2012, Girls Who Code offers summer immersion programs in New York City, Detroit, MI, San Francisco, San Jose, and Davis, CA. Free of charge, the program provides intensive instruction in computer science, robotics, algorithms, web design and mobile development as well as exposure to leading women in the field and mentorship opportunities.
Launched with a veritable army of corporate sponsors, including Twitter, eBay, Intel, Goldman Sachs, AT&T and IAC, the Girls Who Code program will no doubt continue to grow in the future.
I chose to feature Saujani’s initiative in this post because, well, it is inspiring–she took initiative and turned idealism into impact (to borrow from friend and Harvard graduate Nina Vasan’s Do Good Well). By the same token, Saujani is in good company and joins a cohort of many other leaders who are joining the burgeoning “women’s movement” to empower women all around the world. From Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In to Frida Giannini’s Chime for Change, there is no shortage of initiatives in the ‘women’s empowerment space.’ I for one am heartened by the enthusiasm, idealism, and inspiration with which these initiatives were born and am eager to see what kind of impact will come of them in the years to come. It very well may be the case that our daughters live in a very different world than we do, even if that seems nearly impossible for us to imagine now. Because, after all, we already do live in the age of limitless possibility, don’t we? That means that it can only be up from here—it also means that we will have to take the initiative to fill in the blank ourselves.
And, one last thing, :)
Ladies, amidst all of the powerful rumblings of the women’s movement, let’s not forget the men that will always be a vital part of our home and work environments. Progress is not purely about women’s empowerment, but about empowerment that uplifts people of all genders so that productivity may always be considered the inseparable twin of togetherness.
Tomorrow, Inesha and I are off to the Women in the World Summit in NYC! (where, coincidentally, Reshma Saujani will be speaking) More updates soon!