By The Daily Dot
Some walls were made to be climbed. Or broken through. Or smashed entirely.
There may be no physical rule or actual law, but if you look around, it seems that “girls” just aren’t allowed in tech—a mere 12% of computer science graduates today are women, though 74% of girls in middle school express an interest in technology. Some women, however, aren’t willing to accept the status quo and are pushing the bounds of what seems possible every day. Girls Who Code is a nonprofit that encourages young women to change the world by entering the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
The spirit of challenging conventions, blazing new trails and doing what most people say can’t be done that the women at Girls Who Code embody is the spirit that inspires Chevrolet engineers (many of them women) and motivates them to pursue their greatest technological achievements. The current Volt, for example—averaging 900 miles between fill-ups* by charging regularly—represents Chevrolet’s continuing quest to deliver freedom from the pump, and build a better world for all.
The world changes one innovation—and one person—at a time.
“I’m most excited by rock star women in tech who are such inspiring role models for young women,” says Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code.
Girls Who Code is not alone—it’s part of a broader movement to break down the gender divide in technology, and the kind of women whom Saujani is talking about can be found all over the world, if you look.
One “rock star” woman is Katie Cunningham, who blogs at therealkatie.net. She is a Python developer at the Cox Media group, has written books on technology for O’Reilly and Pearson, and speaks regularly at major coding conferences, including PyCon, DjangoCon and jQuery Conference.
In fact, at the last PyCon, Cunningham made women (and a surprising number of men) feel welcome by hosting a manicure party. “It all started off as a joke,” she wrote on her blog. But there was such a big response that she ended up actually doing it. And dozens of people showed up.
Another rock star is Sara Chipps, who blogs at sarajchipps.com. Until recently, Chipps was the CTO of Levo League, a start up dedicated to providing young women with tools to build their careers. She left Levo League in late 2013 to focus on her nonprofit, Girl Develop It, which provides low-cost classes that teach adult women to code.
Women such as Chipps and Cunningham, who are very visible leaders in tech, are a key part of tearing down the gender divide in technology. “When girls think of technologists, they think of white men, and it turns them off,” says Saujani. “I’ve seen what an impact it makes when girls come face to face with a successful coder or entrepreneur who looks like them. It’s like a light bulb goes off and they see that these fields are open to them.”
She recalls an event last summer during which 15- and 16-year-old girls presented apps they designed to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook: “It was such a mind-blowing experience to see them pitching their products with so much confidence.”
For every Cunningham, Chipps or Sandberg, Saujani adds, there’s a huge butterfly effect. “They say if you teach one girl to code, she will teach four.”
Between women mentors and leaders in technology and access to technological education, it may be possible for women to reach gender parity in tech by 2020. The Department of Labor projects that there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings in that year. Because about 30% of people exposed to computer science will find careers in the field, organizations such as Girls Who Code and Girl Develop It need to reach 4.6 million women.
That’s a pretty tall order, but with women like these helping other women, it might just be possible.
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*EPA-estimated 38-mile all-electric range based on 98 MPGe (electric); 35 MPG city/40 highway (gas). Actual mileage may vary.