Although the urban digital divide is steadily eroding, there are still tremendous barriers to entry into the technology field that still remain for women of color.
Early access and exposure are essential to changing the status quo. Through a combination of workshops and field trips, Black Girls Code is providing girls with new skills in computer programming, introducing them to role models in the technology space, and building their confidence to become tech creators and entrepreneurs.
By reaching out to the community through workshops and after-school programs, Black Girls Code introduces computer coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails. Black Girls Code has set out to prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. By promoting classes and programs they hope to grow the number of women of color working in technology and give underprivileged girls a chance to become the masters of their technological worlds.
Recently celebrating their one-year anniversary, Black Girls Code had the honor of bringing technology and entertainment to many young girls of color. By teaching the girls programming and game design, the organization hopes to have started the lifelong process of developing in them a love for technology and the self-confidence that comes from understanding the greatest tools of the 21st century.
While Black Girls Code is pleased with the results of their work so far, this is just the first step in seeking to bridge the digital divide. According the BGC founder Kimberly Bryant, “The digital divide, or the gap between those with regular, effective access to digital technology and those without, is becoming an increasingly critical problem in society. As more and more information becomes electronic, the inability to get online can leave entire communities at an extremely dangerous disadvantage.”
A personal quest
Kimberly Bryant’s journey into coding started early.
“When I was first introduced to computer programming, as a freshman in Electrical Engineering, Fortran and Pascal were the popular languages for newbies in computing and the Apple Macintosh was the new kid on the block,” she said. “I remember being excited by the prospects, and looked forward to embarking on a rich and rewarding career after college.”
But Bryant also recalled feeling culturally isolated and noted few of her classmates looked like her.
“While we shared similar aspirations and many good times, there was much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background.”
Much has changed since her college days, but she says there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions.
“This absence cannot be explained by a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits,” she said.
“By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”
Richard Session is lead software architect of Chalkfly.com, a local tech business, and he spoke to the disparities in technology use: “Technology is huge and is only getting bigger. It’s so easy for us to be consumers (blogs, apps, mobile devices), but we truly empower ourselves when we become creators.”
“There are so many open IT jobs available but many of us don’t have the skills to apply for them. Getting young girls to participate in BGC can lead them not only to these opportunities, but also keep them engaged in STEM subjects that seem to pass many girls by as they get older,” he said.
Local independent web developer Jason Walker said, “Black Girls Code is a perfect example of how to help young women gain experience from experts in the field. In technology, mentorship is priceless. Often there’s too much for one person to navigate as they start out, and I’ve seen many adults throw their hands up in frustration. With BGC beginners get a guide to help them through the maze.”
Walker went on to say, “BGC can offer an opportunity to any young woman who may not know she can do more with her laptop than check Facebook.
“Now that I’m a father of two, I’m particularly sensitive to this. I don’t want my daughter to feel limited. I want her to understand that she’s more than capable of getting into any field she’s interested in.
“I’d love for her to understand that as she’s plays her favorite video games, there’s no reason she can’t one day make them herself.”
BlackGirlsCODE is bringing a 1-day webmaking workshop to Detroit on Saturday, August 17th, to Wayne State University. This workshop will focus on mobile app development with Android AppInventor and feature exciting “tech chats” from inspiring women mobile innovators.
No prior programming experience is required for this class. All BGC events are geared towards introducing participants to the technological universe and encouraging them to pursue careers as Tech creators and entrepreneurs. This ciass intended for girls ages 13-17. The event starts promptly at 10am and ends at 4pm. For more information and registration visitwww.wdet.org/events/236/black-girls-code-workshop-build-a-mobile-app/