Pando

Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code and others are growing fast, making a real difference

By Dennis Keohane , written on April 2, 2015

From The News Desk

Girls Who Code, a program that promotes more participation by women in computer science programs and careers, started modestly in New York City in 2012. Recently, however, the organization founded by Reshma Saujani has seen some pretty incredible growth, according to its 2014 year end report.

Since its inception, the nonprofit has given more than 3,000 high school-aged girls computer coding instruction, with a goal of helping them develop functional code-based products, such as mobile video games and other software applications. The organization has also expanded its programs to 24 cities and seen a huge jump in the number of girls participating in its programs from 2013 to 2014. Starting in 2012 with 20 students, Girls Who Code's two-week Summer Immersion program had 152 participants in 2013 and 375 in 2014. Its after-school club programs are even more popular; in 2014, close to 2,200 girls took part in the the after school program, up from 600 participants the year before.

Girls Who Code relies on partnerships and the generosity of foundations, corporations, and individuals. It raised more than $7.7 million in 2014, after receiving about $1.2 million the previous year. Backers include The Knight Foundation, Amazon, Google, Twitter, Facebook, GE, EMC, AT&T, Oracle, MasterCard, Microsoft, Intel, and many others.

According to the year end prospectus, the impact of Girls Who Code is also pretty astounding. A recent study by the organization found that 100 percent of its Summer Immersion program alumnae are either majoring or are planning to major in computer science or mechanical/electrical engineering in college. Of that group, 88 percent have plans to major in computer science and named Girls Who Code as their motivation for doing so.

Graduates of the various Girls Who Code programs have gone on to schools such as UC-Berkeley, Stanford, Cal Polytech, MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and numerous other prestigious schools.

Girls Who Code may be the fast-growing, but it isn’t the only program aimed at getting high school students -- and girls in particular -- excited about potential careers in the technology sector.

Black Girls Code, which by promoting STEM programs works to creates more opportunities for women of color in technology, has grown beyond beyond its first operations in the Bay Area. Currently, Black Girls Code has programs in Atlanta, New York, Memphis, Detroit, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Johannesburg, South Africa.

The New York City-based Flatiron School is expanding its Pre-College Academy computer engineering program -- which had 150 students take part last year -- beyond New York to Austin, Boston, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco. While Flatiron’s program is co-ed, its focus on teaching developer skills to high school students has grown from a pilot to a multi-city endeavor in two years time.

And although it only operates in Massachusetts, Science from Scientists, founded in 2005 by Dr. Erika Ebbel Angle (an MIT grad, former Miss Massachusetts, and wife of iRobot chief executive Colin Angle), has worked with 18,000 students in its ten years of existence.

The great thing about Girls Who Code and similar programs is that they really aren’t in competition and all have one singular focus: expanding the opportunities in the computer industry for those -- especially women -- who have not always had a clear path, or even a roadmap, to success.

[illustration by Brad Jonas]