Program Aims To Close Tech Gender Gap

The Daily News of Newburyport, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) “Girls Who Code” was founded with a mission to close the gender gap in technology. The nonprofit has spent the past five years teaching computer science to nearly 40,000 young women.

AMESBURY

Sarah Chapman wanted to close the gap between girls and boys who can write computer code and, with the help of her community, she is well on her way.

“The kids my daughter’s age have grown up with smartphones, computers and tablets around them,” Chapman said. “They are really savvy technology-wise. But having them make it is another step.”

Chapman, an Amesbury resident and the mother of a 10-year-old girl, sees computer coding as the wave of the future and wanted to introduce her daughter and other girls to the discipline. Chapman executed a quick internet search last spring and discovered Girls Who Code.

Founded with a mission to close the gender gap in technology, the New York-based nonprofit has spent the past five years teaching computer science to nearly 40,000 young women.

“Women are so underrepresented in that industry,” Chapman said. “This will be one of the top employment industries in the future.”

Hoping to start a Girls Who Code club in her hometown, Chapman approached Amesbury Public Library’s children’s librarian, Clare Dombrowski. While Dombrowski was excited by the idea, she said the library didn’t have the equipment to run the program but knew someone who could.

Enter Code & Circuit founder Ken Aspeslagh, who has been teaching coding to schoolchildren in the city for the past four years.

The Girls Who Code mission matches nicely with Aspeslagh’s own hopes to close the gender gap in technology, so he offered Chapman the use of his Main Street classroom and its coding technology.

“Over the last four years, we have noticed a smaller percentage of girls in our classes as the grade levels increase,” Aspeslagh said. “We will go from a fairly even distribution of girls and boys in grades K through 2, then we get up to the middle and high school levels and there may be one or two or even no girls involved in one of those groups.”
E
nlisting the aid of Johanne Knowlton to instruct a two-hour class each Friday, Chapman had eight local girls, ages 10 to 16, coding at Code & Circuit by the end of October.

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