Twitter and Girls Who Code

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September 3, 2012; Source: TechCrunch

This corporate/nonprofit relationship is interesting and is worth following in NPQ’s humble opinion. Twitter’s vice president is on the board of the small new nonprofit, Girls Who Code, and made one of the first donations to the New York-based nonprofit. At the end of August, Twitter’s offices were the site of a fundraising event for the group, which is aimed at providing 13 to 17 year-old-girls with the “skills and resources to pursue opportunities in technology and engineering.” At that event co-founders Ev Williams, Biz Stone, and Jack Dorsey all provided their own donations to the cause (a time honored tradition at such parties, but nice in that the donations came from all three co-founders as individuals rather than the company).

Girls Who Code recently celebrated its first graduating class. Twenty young women took part in the eight-week program, which involved the girls in, among other things, developing their own applications. Follow up with the graduates will include their participation in “hackathons” and some mentoring by Twitter-based volunteer engineers. While many job opportunities are increasingly demanding skills such as engineering, web programming, mobile development and robotics, these areas remain largely disproportionately populated by males.

As Girls Who Code’s website notes:

“The numbers speak for themselves. By 2018, there will be 1.4 million computer science-related job openings, yet U.S. universities are expected to produce enough computer science graduates to fill just 29% of these jobs. And while 57% of bachelor’s degrees are obtained by women, less than 14% of computer science degrees are awarded to women.”

Twitter Software Engineers Sara Haider and Olivia Watkins are co-chairs of Twitter’s volunteer engineers’ group which has been helping the girls develop Android apps built on the foundation of Twitter’s API.

Haider says of her involvement, “Girls Who Code aligns with our vision for how we want to tackle the issue of the supply of women in engineering … this looks at the other end of funnel which inspires young women to enter engineering.” But her involvement does more for her than providing her a way to pay it forward. “When the girls finally did demos, they were so eager and excited in classroom to show off their works…these girls inspired me,” she recalls.

NPQ would love to hear about other similar projects and about what readers’ thoughts are on this. –Mike Keefe-Feldman and Ruth McCambridge

  • Val

    As a girl who codes, I think we need more not profits like this. When I took comp sci 101 in college, an introduction to programming, I found that I was already behind all the men in the class who were going to declare majors in the field. They had all taken programming in high school, been programming for an average of three years, and had some amazing software already under their belts. Comp Sci 101 was my first taste of programming. It was daunting to be behind in a field that was so male dominated before even hitting the work-place. Yet, I declared computer science as a major and graduated on time with my Bachelor’s of Science degree. On a note of that 14% – I was the only woman in my graduating class with a Bachelor’s of Science in Computer Science. Even though early on, I had a few other women in classes with me, it was easier and even encouraged to jump to another major – like math, that they weren’t behind in to start. We need to equalize the playing field pre-college in order to give the young women who will be coming into the field the same opportunities men have had by encouraging and teaching them programming and engineering skills early on in their pre-college years. We need to make sure that when these girls get to college, they don’t feel behind, but feel equal to the men in their classes because they’ve had the same opportunities and experiences.