A company which teaches women computer skills to advance in their careers, is planning to expand across the whole of the US in 2016 as well as hand out $1 million in scholarships. ‘Girls Who Code’, which started as a simple experiment back in 2012 with a group of 20 girls in New York learning the basics of coding, has now grown into an innovative company aiming the close the gender gap in tech once and for all. Its members learn to code, develop mobile apps and benefit from networking and mentoring from companies like Facebook.
Founder Reshma Saujani tells the inspiring story of her company in an article for Medium. “While running for Congress in 2010, I visited computer science classrooms around New York City and walked away again and again with the same question: where are the girls? This question became an obsession and in 2012 I decided to be brave and do something about it. I founded ‘Girls Who Code’ and that summer brought 20 girls into a conference room at AppNexus to teach them the fundamentals of coding. We had girls there from some of the poorest neighborhoods in New York and some of the wealthiest. Our hypothesis was simple: if you teach a girl how to code, she will go on to do amazing things”, she recalls.
And they have been doing just that. Girls Who Code members have in turn created innovative facilities such as Volunteen – a website designed to match potential volunteers with their location and interests – and HandiMap, which helps people of all physical abilities research places before they travel, looking at things like wheelchair ramps and braille.
Saujani also shares her usual response when people ask her about the secret to her success: “My response is that we believed in girls’ unlimited potential. When girls learn to code, they go on to become change agents in their communities. Our girls are creating games, apps and websites that are meaningful to them. Whether it’s a game to illustrate the experience of an undocumented immigrant or a website to provide free college prep, our girls create technology that makes the world a better place”.
She indicates that companies support their work because they “believe in our mission and they’re listening to the needs of their customers. In 2015, we raised $2.7 Million to build a community dedicated to our alumnae, and 57 companies pledged to hire from our network”.