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Getting Girls Coding: Spotlight on Reshma Saujani

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Her Background

Reshma Saujani sure is an impressive woman. A graduate of both Harvard and Yale, a lawyer, a politician, an author and in 2015 she was named as one of Fortune Magazine’s 40 Under 40. If this wasn’t enough, in 2012 she made it her mission “to close the gender gap in technology” and has, by any measure, been doing a great job of it ever since! Here at blue{shift} we’ve written down a few reasons why we think Reshma Saujani is an awesome role model for your girl coder and is definitely a Girl Who Can!

Girls Who Code

In order to achieve her goal, she set up the nonprofit organisation Girls Who Code (GWC) in the United States. Since its beginnings in 2012, GWC has worked with almost 90,000 girls from a diverse range of backgrounds. The organisation offers after school clubs, two week courses and seven week long summer immersion programs aimed at girls from primary school level to university graduates.

Has it worked?

GWC is now in all fifty states in America, and Saujani believes that after six years we are at ‘a tipping point’ in computer science. The GWC 2017 reportstates that due to the efforts of Saujani and others like her trying to close the gender gap in technology; by 2027 in the US, they are on track to achieve gender parity in entry level computer science jobs. Additionally, GWC’s Black and Latina alumni are choosing to major in computer science at a rate 16 times that of the US national average. Although that is a substantial achievement, there is still a long way to go. 2027 is nine years off, the stats are for only the US, and gender parity is only predicted to be achieved in entry level jobs.

What next?

So how do we get women into computer science and then into the top positions in the sector? In 2016 Saujani did a TED talk titled “Teach girls bravery, not perfection.” In her speech, she talked about the way girls had been socialised to aim for perfection. Comparatively, boys had been socialised from an early age to be brave, to aim high and take risks. The result of this was, in adulthood, women were less likely to take risks in their education and in the workplace, ultimately culminating in the fact that men made it to the top of the career ladder and women tended to lag behind. Although of course there are also other factors involved in the underrepresentation of women in the workplace, Saujani emphasised the need to break these habits so that both boys and girls are comfortable with failure and risk taking from a young age.

Saujani believes that her organisation GWC, is doing its part. By teaching girls coding, she is also teaching girls perseverance and imperfection and therefore socialising girls to be brave.

Saujani states, “Girls Who Code doesn’t exist solely to discover the next great female technology icon, although that would be great! In addition to coding, the girls at our program learn to pitch ideas and products, present themselves professionally, and interact with colleagues at every level of a company. We exist not just to teach computer science, but to equip girls with the skills and confidence they need to compete in the 21st-century workforce.”

She hopes that at the camps girls are provided with role models who they are inspired by and a supporting environment where girls can learn to be brave together.

How we apply this message

Here at blue{shift} we support every word of Saujani’s message on getting women into computer science. This year we have created our first ever all-female summer camp — DIY Girls — aimed at encouraging girls who may have previously been alienated from STEM subjects. Our founder Heather Lyons says the reason she created the camp was “to create a community of girls where they feel empowered and a place where they can get together with our teachers, who are themselves experts in the field. At the end of the week, we want every girl to walk away seeing the possibilities of code and having the confidence to put it in action.”

If you know a coder who is interested in joining DIY Girls this summer 30 July to 10 August, please visit www.blueshiftcoding.com or email us at hello@blueshiftcoding.com.