“Girls Who Code”: Changing the Face of Coding
By Elina Malamed
In a world where the internet influences decisions ranging from purchases to politics, the demand for learning code is increasing. According to the National Science Foundation, females make up only 29% of the STEM field, so “Girls Who Code” made it their mission to reach out to young girls—expanding the world of code and closing this gender gap.
“Girls Who Code” is a growing organization, evolving for 5 years by a group of 20 girls in New York City. Junior Miriam Shamash recently introduced the club to South with the support and leadership of Gloria Moon and Emily Cheng. Their purpose: to encourage more females to feel comfortable joining the coding community.
On their website, “Girls Who Code” highlights the falling percentage of females in computer science, stating that “In 1995, 37% of computer scientists were women. Today, it’s only 24%. If we do nothing, in ten years the number of women in computing will decrease to just 22%.”
“I want all the girls who are in the club to be able to feel comfortable enough to continue coding. I want them to be confident in the coding world,” said Shamash.
Shamash had previously attended coding camps and programs in her free time, but none of them motivated her as much as the “Girls Who Code Summer Immersion Program.” “I felt discouraged [in other programs] because I was the only girl there, and it was tough because the boys made it seem like they knew much more than I did,” said Shamash. She was determined to bring more of her newfound motivation to the South community, specifically with the goal of encouraging more girls to explore the world of computer science. Shamash noticed the lack of female membership in South’s Programming Club, so she reached out to Mrs. Zinn, the club’s current advisor. In recent years, club membership wasn’t high, but with the addition of the new sect, “Girls Who Code,” programming after school seems to be more popular. Both the original Programming Club, and the “Girls Who Code” Club have gained more membership with this addition.
Ashley Chen, 11th grade member of the new club, was drawn to it because of its appeal to beginners. “Programming club was intimidating because it was filled with people who had a set plan and knew exactly what they were doing, while I barely knew what coding was before I joined,” said Chen. Because Chen doesn’t have a set plan for her future, as many high schoolers may agree with, she said that she decided to “take the advice of most adults and try new things.” “I’ve been loving the club [because] it brought people together for the purpose,” said Chen.
The organization not only aims to close the gender gap but also works to improve other elements of society. The website that Shamash contributed to over the summer encourages those in poverty to reach out for different resources such as clothes, food, and water. A drop down menu was created to inform poverty-stricken populations about where they can find these resources. The club’s ultimate goal is to decide on a social project and create a new website to promote and aid that cause.