Teen Girls: The New Generation Of Coders Taking Over The Tech World

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In case you haven’t noticed, the tech industry is booming like nobody’s business. And it’s booming because it is no longer the older white male exclusive group it used to be. These days girls and boys of all ages are involved in tech in some way or another, because for most millennials and even the younger generation, tech is their way of life.

Many of the younger generation are what we’d called ‘digital natives’, growing up surrounded by tech and knowing how to navigate iOS from birth almost! There are also quite a few organizations dedicated to encouraging high school-aged girls who get interested in STEM industries (science, tech, engineering & math) so that they are excited about picking a career in one of those fields.

One of those organizations is Girls Who Code based out of New York, and founded by Reshma Saujani. She is quite the anomaly herself, being the first South Asian woman to run for US congress in 2010. Today GWC aims to close the gender gap in the technology industry, teaching girls one of the most aggressive tools of the trade that will become commonplace in future generations: coding.

We had the chance to speak to Manhattan high school junior Laura Willson, 16, about her involvement with GWC and why she wanted to learn coding.

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Tell us what got you interested in coding and tech?

I became interested in computer science and coding this past summer when I attended the Girls Who Code Program, an eight week summer program that taught me how to code in different languages, such as JavaScript, Python, C, CSS, JQuery, and HTML.

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, what exactly is ‘coding’?

Coding is problem solving and programming in different computer programming languages. A person who knows how to code can get any kind of career.

Tell us about your involvement with GWC?

Now that the Girls Who Code program has finished, I am currently involved with Girls Who Code through the Girls Who Code club I made in my school so other girls have a chance to learn how to code. I am also involved through Girls Who Code by attending events to help recruit other high school girls to apply to the Girls Who Code summer program. I currently code in Khan Academy in the Girls Who Code club I attend in my school.

Reshma Saujani started GWC because she wanted to close the gender gap. Can you tell us some statistics about men vs. women in the computer science and tech industries?

Women make up only 26% in the STEM field. That means, there is a wide gender gap that needs to be filled because men make up 74% of STEM workers.

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You currently attend a Catholic all-girls school which doesn’t have any computer science programs, and there are many other schools like it. Why do you think it is important more schools implement these types of classes?

It is important to have CS programs in every high school because it will expose students to the STEM field. More importantly, young women need to be exposed so they will have an interest in the STEM field and close the gender gap.

What do you think holds girls back from embarking on a career in tech?

I think girls are intimidated when it comes to technology careers because they feel that they are not smart or good enough to work in the field.

You have mentioned that your grandfather died of Alzheimer’s disease and this is what motivated you to start coding. Can you tell us a bit more about that and what you hope to achieve?

Coding helps with many problems, and diseases is one of the problems that can be treated through coding. After hearing this, I thought about my grandfather, who died from the Alzheimer’s disease, and figured I can come up with a treatment that will help cure patients who have this disease.

I do not have an ideal job in mind, but I do know that I would like to pursue a career in computer science or engineering. I hope to teach others how to code because learning how to code can help with many problems and can even create new ideas for apps and devices. Teaching others to code will not only make a difference in others lives, but also make a difference in the world.

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How can coding help women in the future?Almost everything we do today is run by technology. Technology is one of the biggest industries and it pays really well. If we do not have women in the coding industry, it will also hurt the gender gap, which needs to be closed by women. Women coders can come together and create a sisterhood to encourage each other to be part of the technology field.

Who is your tech hero?

I do not have a tech hero, but someone I have in mind is Reshma Saujani. Reshma is the Founder and CEO of the Girls Who Code Program. It was an honor and pleasure to meet Reshma in person while attending the Girls Who Code Program. I felt inspired by her because she paved the way for young women in high school to learn how to code, and she has helped to try to close the gender gap. She has encouraged all the girls in Girls Who Code to be part of the technology industry, and she mentioned that failure is always important to have in one’s life because we come back stronger and learn more from our failure.

What encouragement would you give other girls to get involved in the tech industry?

I would encourage other teens and young women to learn coding by telling them to attend a computer science class or attend a program with coding if there is no computer science class in their school. Some great tech and coding organizations that girls can join to get to know the world of coding is, of course, Girls Who Code and NYC Generation Tech.

Check out Laura and other girls talking about fighting back against the stereotypes of gender inequality in tech:

61 Comments

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    • Carol Willson says:

      Love the article. Please check out my daughter, Laura Willson. She is a girl who codes. A proud mom of 8 children. lauralynnwillson.blogspot.com

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