Right now, the United States is suffering from a huge computing crisis. It's not a virus or a new technology, but simply a lack of skilled coders. Right now there are 500,000 computer science jobs open, but only 40,000 graduates to fill them. With coding and other jobs in the computer field becoming more important to businesses everywhere, that gap is only widening. One of the reasons? Half of our future generation is being ignored as potential people to fill the gap.
Men vastly outnumber women in the computer science field, and a common answer to this problem is that it starts with the educational system. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in 2015, women accounted for only 18% of all computer science degrees earned for that year, and even less for women of color. This is reflected in the job market where, according to the Observer, women in tech represent only 25% of computing jobs- while also earning less of a salary than their male counterparts 63% of the time.
Some people even argue that women will never be a major part of the sciences, not from anything people are doing, but due to personality differences in men vs. women. Their arguments, however, are false and don't measure up to studies. This can be shown not only in paper, but in countries outside the US. In India, half of the students in computer science classes are female, and they perform just as well in examinations.
Despite the conflicts on the gender gap, the fact is jobs need filling, and women weren't being catered to. At least until Reshma Saujani founded Girls Who Code, a nonprofit organization that reaches out to girls and organizes workshops for them to learn computer programming. These workshops can also be hosted by community organizers and leaders that register an independent workshop through the Girls Who Code website. These workshops can even be found throughout the US in all 50 states.
Girls Who Code focuses on computer clubs, for children as young as third grade, and has both camps and summer program for kids 6th grade through 12th grade. Their efforts have been highly effective. Those who complete the program often go on to graduate in computer science, at a rate of 15 times the national average.
Their success is so great, they are projecting to help close the gender gap by 2027. Girls Who Code has already helped 90,000 girls, and continues to help more every day. Their efforts have been especially beneficial to minorities that are underrepresented in technology, such as black and Latina women, and low-income girls that may not have the same opportunities available to them. By choosing a computer science degree, they choose a better life for themselves, by helping to diversify tech or by ending the cycle of poverty.
“...what we are doing is preparing students to be able to tackle STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]-related fields and to feel relatively comfortable with it as the technology changes and the workforce changes.” -Tracy Gray, the Managing Director of the American Institutes for Research
Bootcamps and workshops like the ones that Girls Who Code put on are not only important now because of the amount of job openings, but are also important for the future. As the work force becomes more and more digital, with more traditional jobs being phased out due to forces like automation and artificial intelligence, teaching girls and women to code better prepares them for the future of work- a future where coding will be table stakes for many jobs.
When women get jobs in technology and even out the gender differences in companies, those companies also go on to preform better. According to a study reported by Forbes, "tech companies with a higher proportion of women employees, especially in leadership roles, perform better - both financially and in terms of creativity and innovation."
Even if girls can't find a good coding job, the odds are good they have a strong future in the tech industry—but only if they have the qualifications to apply. Girls Who Code still has a great deal of work to do. There are thousands of girls to be reached. Without programs like this one, they can slip through the cracks, and miss out on a career they might find themselves enjoying.