Young women from around North America have are being given the opportunity to code and take courses with the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program. Most of the attendees are in high school as junior and senior level students who gather in the nearest hosting cities for a chance at a free seven-week computer science education program. Recently many cities participated like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, San Jose, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston. This year, however, Microsoft has decided to become a host as well. Along with the Microsoft YouthSpark program, 20 female students from around the Seattle area will be able to attend the program right on the Redmond campus.
As we reported earlier this year, Girls Who Code is a non-profit organization that is attempting to use long-term strategies for addressing the technology gap that exist the technology industry. According to the organization, “The shortage of women in technical roles, whether it’s retail or entertainment, is a massive crisis both in terms of innovation and socioeconomic equality throughout the United States.” According to reports, the percentage of females enrolled in computer science majors has dropped from 37 percent back in 1984, down to 18 percent as of today.
While that statement may seem rather bleak, a gender gap in technology can be seen as the observation of a much larger gender issues that affects all workplaces. “The gender gap isn’t just a Silicon Valley issue anymore,” says Reshma Saujani, Girls Who Code founder and CEO, said in her press release. “The shortage of women in technical roles, whether it’s retail or entertainment, is a massive crisis both in terms of innovation and socioeconomic equality throughout the United States.”
This year the Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program is looking to expand further in North America from its previous 19 programs and 375 participants to 60 programs with 1,200 young women attending. As young women progress through the program, they have the opportunity to learn foundational tools like mobile apps, game, and web development alongside web design and computer languages such as Java, HTML, and Python.
The courses also attempts to dismiss some preconceived notions regard the coding world. Young women who may feel intimidated about the program should know, there is no coding experience required to attend the Summer Immersion Program. Eager students and parents can get involved prior to the event with a free educational programming language tool called Scratch. The program was developed by the thinking heads over at MIT and is free to use for those interested.
As Director of Global Microsoft YouthSpark initiative, Yvonne Thomas puts it, “We want to make sure every young person has the opportunity to try and learn computer science. Girls Who Code is a great partner. They offer computer science education in an environment where the girls learn the fundamentals of computer science and how to create technology, while developing relationships with female professionals in the field. All of this is critical to making sure more girls see the possibilities that exist for them in computer science.”