TotalCIO

Jul 3 2012   8:50PM GMT

Today’s girls who code, tomorrow’s women in computer science

Karen Goulart Karen Goulart Profile: Karen Goulart

Some things just bear repeating.

As part of our most recent roundup post — in roundups, we gather interesting items you may have missed from the week that was — we highlighted a new initiative created to promote young women in computer science.

Girls Who Code was founded by former New York City deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani. She plans to kick off the program in New York this summer with hopes of bringing it to other cities in 2013. The group announced last week they now have the support of such tech heavyweights as Twitter, General Electric, Google and eBay.

According to Twitter engineer Sara Haider, Girls Who Code will start with an eight-week intensive program that will teach basic principles of computer science and coding, as well as design, research and entrepreneurship, to girls aged 13 to 17. “Each participant will be matched with a female mentor from a tech company, and she and her mentor will work closely throughout the program and afterwards.”

These companies and others are giving support in the form of money, and perhaps more importantly — time. This, I think, is key.  If the program does what it has set out to do, it will give these young women a chance not only to learn incredibly valuable skills, but also to see and get to know women in computer science and engineering who have succeeded. How often does a teen girl have an opportunity like that?  She’s not going to see it in the media; and if somehow a teenage girl stumbled into a tech show, she might be inclined to believe her only possible future in tech is limited to booth babe.

This is a shame for these girls and their potential future employers, especially when you consider some of the numbers on which Girls Who Code is basing its mission. For example: Technology companies with more women on their management teams have a 34% higher ROI; having women on technical teams increases teams’ problem-solving ability and creativity. By 2018 there will be 1.4 million computer-science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29% of these jobs. And while 57% of bachelor’s degrees are obtained by women, less than 14% of those degrees are in computer science.

Look, I’m a writer, and I’m pretty sure this is what I’m “meant to be.” I did the necessary math and science to get through high school and enough so-called math to get a degree in English, and probably went on to get a master’s degree in journalism just because it didn’t involve any math. OK, not really, but — as I’ve written about before in this space — with the right encouragement at the right time, I might be one of those women in computer science mentoring today.  I’m not saying a tech career would be better than (or preclude) a writing career, or that I would have excelled in computer science, I’m just saying it would’ve been fun to find out.

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