Girls Who Code: Empowering Girls for Computer Science Majors and Careers

As the Director of Partnerships and Development for the national nonprofit organization Girls Who Code, I work with an all-star team to bring high quality computer science education to as many girls, in as many schools, in as many cities, as possible. We work with a sense of urgency and an acute awareness that time is running out.

Why? Because by 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs open in the computing related fields, and at current rates just 3% of them will be filled by women educated in the US. In the past 30 years we’ve seen a steep decline in female computer science majors. While in 1984, women made up an impressive 37% of computer science majors, today that number is a mere 18%.

The gender gap in technology is nothing short of a crisis. While women make 85% of consumer purchases, earn the majority of college degrees, and make up the majority of the workforce, we fill less than a quarter of existing technical positions.

It’s not just a parity problem, but a socioeconomic problem and an innovation problem.

So where are all the women? Though there doesn’t seem to be a single cause, a big part of the issue is cultural. According to a recent NPR report, the gender gap may have begun with the advent of the personal computer, which was marketed almost exclusively to boys.

At Girls Who Code, our programs aim to reverse the negative cultural stereotypes that have pushed women out of technology, and empower girls with the computing skills they need for 21st century opportunities.

We started with a single Summer Immersion Program in 2012, teaching 20 girls everything from mobile development to web design to robotics, and in 2015 will reach nearly 1,200 girls with these critical hard skills. The program also engages inspiring guest speakers and mentors, to provide girls with role models in a male-dominated field and teaches soft skills like pitching and networking.

In parallel, our community based Girls Who Code Clubs are serving thousands of young women in 24 states in after school and weekend settings. These girls, from 6th-12th grade, recently took part in a Samsung Mobile App Challenge, where they were invited to build an app to improve their school or community.

The first-prize winners, Cassie and Ashley, are middle school students from Erie, Colorado, who built an app called Musiklearn — a product to help kids with autism and dyslexia learn through music.

This is what’s at stake. When you empower girls in technology, there’s no limit to what they will accomplish.

About the author:

Susan Nesbitt has spent over 15 years dedicated to the promotion of technology and service.

Currently the Director of Partnerships and Development for Girls Who Code, Susan has made a marked contribution to help close the gender gap in technology. Previous experience with this mission includes serving on the selection committee and as a mentor for TechWomen.

A founding volunteer and member of the Board of Directors for the Obama Administration’s All For Good, Susan’s leadership roles have extended to serve on the boards of organizations including Medic Mobile, GreatNonprofits, and Rabbl.

Susan will be one of several presenters at Pearson’s STEM Ed Series, Closing the Gender Gap, held February 19-21, 2015. Located at the Fairmont San Jose & Google Campus in Silicon Valley, California, educators and industry leaders will discuss ideas and programs to help close the gap in STEM education and STEM careers with a focus on technology. More information about the event including registration can be found here: