'Girls Who Code' Combats the Gender Gap in Computer Sciences

Non-profit 'Girls Who Code' gives underprivileged girls a chance to learn everything from robotics to Web design.
Girls Who Code hopes “to close the gap for women in the computer science and engineering fields.” (Photo: GirlsWhoCode.com)
Sep 8, 2012· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

Last Thursday, 20 high school girls from the New York City area became the first graduating class ofGirls Who Code<, a nonprofit organization that teaches underprivileged girls computer science courses, Women2.0 reports.

Funded by companies like Google, Twitter, and eBay, the nonprofit's purpose is to get more women to pursue jobs in the tech sector, an industry that’s historically been dominated by men.

Girls Who Code, which was founded by tech guru Reshma Saujani,just finished its first eight-week crash course in computer science. TechCrunch reports that its intensive curriculum included robotics, web design, and mobile development. It was certainly concentrated; the girls learned JavaScript from start to finish in under a week.

For their final projects, the students paired up and built a range of high-tech offerings, including mobile apps and finished computer games. This week, they presented them at the Google building in New York to showcase their work.

Student Cora Frederick told Women2.0 that for her final project, Classifying Tumors, she “researched the manipulation of decision tree algorithms to improve the accuracy of machine-learned predictions of whether a breast cancer tumor is benign or malignant.” Another pair of students built an Android app that helps concerned New Yorkers find shelters and soup kitchens for homeless people, while another provided maps and direction suggestions for the disabled to more easily maneuver through New York’s labyrinthine subway system.

The fact that the nonprofit could teach its kids so much in so little time may lead people to suspect its students come prepared with a healthy computer-related background, but that isn’t the case. Girls Who Code graduate Masuma Ali explained, “When I was in Bangladesh I didn’t know how to even turn on a computer. My cousins used computers to play games and I was always jealous that they were using computers. Because of my interest in computers, my ESL teacher told me about Girls Who Code. I’m lucky to have gotten in.”

Saujani says that next year, Girls Who Code will operate classes in seven U.S. cities.

Would you sign your girls up for it? How else do you think we can encourage our daughters to get into science-related fields?