BOSTON, Mass. – In 2021, a World Economic Forum report found that 156 countries have yet to close the remaining 32.3% of the global gender gap, predicting the gap will take just over 135 years to close. eliminated. Globally, women make up just 35% of higher education students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), according to UNESCO. The international nonprofit, Girls Who Code, believes that closing the gender gap in STEM is key to closing the global gender gap. The organization started its work ten years ago and after achieving major success, it expanded to India in 2019. Girls Who Code set out to close the gender gap in the country and to show that women, girls and non-binary people can also be computer scientists.
Origins & Philosophy
Reshma Saujan, lawyer and politician, founded Girls Who Code with the goal of solving the global gender gap and increasing diversity in IT workplaces, as well as making IT programs more representative of the public who uses them. The organization provides IT resources and training to girls and non-binary youth. Girls Who Code focuses on partnering with schools as a way to promote computer science to girls at a young age. More than half of the students who attend the organization’s programs are girls of color and come from low-income backgrounds.
The organization is based on three fundamental values:
- Bravery – “We raise our girls to be perfect and we raise our boys to be brave,” Saujan said at a 2016 TED Talk. Saujan believes that when girls are allowed to be imperfect, they are more courageous and ambitious, and they are less afraid to participate in male-dominated fields.
- Fraternity – The organization brings girls together so that they can support and strengthen each other. “My own approach to fostering confidence is grounded in women’s sports, which have been incredibly successful in increasing the participation of girls and women,” Elena Strange, a computer science professor at Northeastern University, said in an interview with The Borgen. Project. “I use coding workshops to create a sense of belonging, similar to a sports uniform. It makes it clear and intentional that the people who support you are around you and are your biggest cheerleaders.
- Activism – Girls Who Code believes future female programmers will transform the tech industry by making it more representative of the people it serves. “The technologies we use every day will improve as various teams build them with consideration for all types of users on the other side,” Strange said.
Expansion in India
According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, India ranks 140th on the gender gap list out of 156 ranked countries. About 10% fewer women are in STEM, even though men and women participate in higher education at almost identical rates in the country.
Girls Who Code says it wants to change the reality that only 26% of engineers in India are women. Thus, the organization partnered with United Technologies to make possible an expansion in India. The organization offers a two-week summer virtual immersion program, a six-week virtual self-study program, and an after-school program.
In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Girls Who Code has made computer resources and coding activities free to download. An Indian student, Meghana, has created a website dedicated to raising awareness about the lack of education in rural India.
Girls Who Code has seen young girls and non-binary people stay and pursue careers in IT when they have the right support system. The organization is confident that it increases the number of future female programmers in India and minimizes the gender gap in the country along the way. Girls graduating from Girls Who Code programs continue to champion diversity and inclusion in the workplace and in academia, increasing the rate of women working in tech.
In India, society traditionally expects women and girls to do unpaid domestic work for much of their lives, which is a major contributor to rising rates of poverty and violence against women. women. According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), in 2018 men in the country performed some of the lowest proportions of unpaid care work in the world.
Girls Who Code says it is on track to meet its global goal of closing the gender gap in new, entry-level tech jobs by 2030. “demand the inclusion of women at all levels,” said Strange. “That’s the ‘accessibility and belonging’ part.”