Girls Who Code: Connecting GenDIY Women to STEM

Zoe Husted

The US Department of Labor estimates that by 2020 there will be 1.4 million jobs in computer science, but only 29% of those jobs will be held by people from the United States, and of that 29% only 3% will be held by women. Programs like Girls Who Code are taking a stand to raise those numbers and promote women to study and find careers in computer science and technology.

I am a rising junior at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California and this summer I was lucky enough to be selected to attend the Girls Who Code summer immersion program hosted by Expedia in Seattle, Washington. 20 rising juniors and seniors in high school attend the free program at their host company from 9 AM to 4 PM, 5 days a week. The point of the program is take girls who have little to no background in computer science and provide them with a chance to learn about computer science and potential careers in technology.

Technology is such an essential part of our world that having just a basic knowledge of some programming languages or something similar can benefit those in any field, not just technology. Girls Who Code strives to provide this experience for girls everywhere so that they can decide whether or not they would like to study computer science or engineering in the future, rather than finding out three years into college. Not many schools in the United States offer computer science courses and those that do can almost always be found to be heavily male dominated. Girls Who Code is working to change this.

The main structure of the course provides over 250 hours of learning experience as well as informative speakers and workshops over the 7 week period. The first week is an introduction to computer science using the drag and drop program Scratch. This provided a way for those with no experience to understand the basic methods in code such as loops, conditional statements, and variables. The second week was based around robotics and using the coding language Python. That week had us doing anything from making robots dance the cupid shuffle to creating randomly generated haikus. The third week was a look into JavaScript, and with help from Khan Academy, we were able to create a scrolling city with a car that moved when arrow keys were pressed. Week four taught us about HTML and CSS, and using it we made our own online portfolios. This week also allowed us to combine our knowledge of JavaScript to add even more functions to our web page. The fifth week was about data and algorithms, introducing us to different APIs as well as different sorting methods.

The last two weeks were dedicated to creating final projects; this is where we were really able to show off how much we had learned. Girls were placed into different groups depending on which topics they were interested in, and then dedicated around 20 hours to code and develop their ideas. Projects ranged anywhere from an app to keep you updated on political topics to a robotic arm controlled by a wii nunchuck. My group decided to create a video game centered around the “Save the Bees” campaign, you can play it here. I know I enjoyed working on the projects immensely. There is nothing like the feeling after debugging something or finally getting a feature to work.

Overall, the experience was well worth 7 weeks in an unfamiliar place. Not only did I become more confident in my coding abilities, but I was also able to understand what a career in technology looks like, as well as embrace my love of technology and learn how to use it to discover opportunities in the future.

Are you a high school student interested in learning how to code, but don’t know where to begin? Here are five ways to get started:

  • MIT’s Scratch program is a great stepping stone that uses block coding, allowing you to learn the structure of programming before learning the actual languages themselves.
  • provides numerous resources connected to coding for those interested in learning the basics.
  • Code Academy is an interactive guide to learning multiple languages like JavaScript, HTML/CSS, and more.
  • Khan Academy has instructional courses on computer programming and computer science, it is an especially good resource for learning how to animate with code.
  • Also if you have any computer science classes offered at your school, I highly recommend taking them. The first class I took in school allowed me to understand how much I really enjoyed programming.

Beginning to program certainly has its frustrations, there will be many times when your code won’t work, and you’ll sit there staring at it for a while before you realize it was something as simple as forgetting a semicolon. These are times when you might want to give up, but the brightside to this is once you finally do figure it out, you get excited being able to watch something you built actually work. There is a lot of trying and failing, but you just have to stick with it and it always ends up being worth it.

About “GenDIY”
Young people are taking control of their own pathway to careers, college and contribution. Powered by digital learning, “GenDIY” is combatting unemployment and the rising costs of earning a degree by seeking alternative pathways to find or create jobs they love. Follow their stories here and on Twitter at #GenDIY. For more, check out:

Zoe Husted is a student at Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego, California.

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