Girls Who Code is a national non-profit organization dedicated to educating and inspiring 6th-12th grade girls to pursue knowledge of coding and technology. Seventy-four percent of middle school girls express interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).
However, by the time they choose a college major, only 0.4% of girls choose Computer Science. Girls Who Code works to change the gender gap in this field by equipping girls with the necessary skills to pursue technology as a career.
Girls Who Code clubs are run across the country. Starting a chapter is relatively easy—there is minimal paperwork and the curriculum is provided. Each chapter needs to have at least one instructor and a place to meet for two hours a week with computers for the girls to use.
The Club I help teach is hosted at Calvin College. Dr. Joel Adams from the Calvin Computer Science department is our faculty advisor and makes sure we can get into the lab and that all the computers work.
We stress the importance of helping your peers, networking, and expose the girls to various topics in computing through student research presentations, guest speakers, and field trips.
As a class, our most recent field trip was to CQL. I've been teaching these girls since September, so it was a pleasure to finally show them where I work and what a software company is all about.
Producing quality software on budget and on time requires many people to work on several moving pieces and for it all to come together to form the final product. This is what I wanted to show the girls in my class. Writing code is important and a great career option, but you can do any number of important jobs at a software company. These options are great because they vary in the skills and personality traits needed and each suits different types of people.
The girls were welcomed to CQL and received a tour of our facility with one of our teammates when they arrived. We aimed to provide a personal feel right from the start by pairing one or two girls up with an employee for the tour. This also allowed for conversations more suited to each girl.
Then the girls all gathered in our main workspace where Mark Lardieri, CQL President, welcomed them by describing why we do what we do and what we hoped they would get out of their visit.
The girls got plates of pizza, chips, and homemade fudge to eat as one of our project managers, Rob, gave a more in-depth look at a few of our recent projects and how we invoke emotion though the user experience and design of the website. Rob also explained the various types of team members and how they fit together in the software development cycle.
Next, the girls broke into small groups and rotated through six breakout sessions that CQL had organized. These sessions were designed to give the girls awareness of various types of careers, which ones might suit them well, and also to have some fun with the material of the topic. The six areas that the girls experienced were: Sales, Marketing, Project Management, Design, Development, and Infrastructure.
Before we sent the girls home, we all came together in a circle to talk about the events of the evening. The girls were very excited about what they’d just learned and were full of energy and smiles!
When I asked the girls for one thing they learned, they said they’d learned so many things it was impossible to choose just one. But, when I asked them which breakout session they liked best, I heard all sort of answers.
Design and Marketing were popular among several of the girls, as was Development (as could be expected from a group of young coders). One young lady said she could see herself being a Project Manager. I felt full of joy seeing my students finding new career paths to suit their personalities so well. The girl who expressed interest in becoming a PM has several personality traits which would likely make her a great Project Manager. To see her come to that conclusion on her own was all I could have asked for out of this event.
Other CQL employees who helped with the event were equally excited about the level of engagement they received from the girls and thrilled to see them learning as the night progressed.
My Girls Who Code Level 1 class will continue to meet to learn more about programming, in particular working with the Python language, through the end of the 2015-2016 school year. During that time, we will also go on more field trips and host guest speakers.
If you’re interested in hosting my class on a field trip or coming to Calvin College to speak to the class, please let me know in the comments below.