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Girls Who Code and the Importance of STEM

Posted by Laura Willson

Jul 29, 2014 6:00:00 AM

It’s no secret that the fastest growing jobs in the world are those that require deep educational qualifications and specific skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).  I was first introduced to STEM and its importance from my guidance counselor who told me and the other girls in my class about the New York City program Girls Who Code (GWC) at the end of my sophomore year of high school.  I had no idea what Computer Science was but I wanted to challenge myself and try something new; I wanted exposure to a new world.

After applying and being accepted to GWC, I attended the eight week summer immersion program where I learned how to code in various languages, such as JavaScript, Python, C, CSS, JQuery, and HTML. I also met many professionals, learned how to communicate with them, and went on various field trips, some of which included Google, Twitter, and Palantir.

                                    A picture of Laura's final project from Girls Who Code

Not only did I learn how to code but I also learned that more girls are needed in the field of computer science. There is a gender gap in computer science and we need more people like Reshma Saujani, the Founder and CEO of GWC, to speak about the importance of getting women involved in STEM.

Coding is important
because it makes it possible for us to create computer software, apps and websites—it involves both problem solving and programming in different computer programming languages. A person who knows code might get a job creating and designing games or in creating programs in the medical field, for example in treating diseases. After learning this, I thought about my grandfather, who died from Alzheimer's, and about how I might come up with a treatment one day.

There is definitely a connection between the math and coding.  Without math, you cannot code.  There is always an equation or two needed to code, which I see as kind of like a game. Math is an essential component to coding and is used in many program languages, because programming assigns variables to certain functions when creating a project.

Computer science programs are important to have in every high school because they will expose students to STEM fields. More importantly, young women need to be exposed so they will have an interest in the STEM field and close the gender gap. While attending GWC I heard from many women professionals say that they have faced criticism for being a “girl who codes.” They have dealt with that by continuing to code and not listening to what others, have to say. I personally have not faced any criticism for being a girl who codes, but if I do I know I will deal with it the same way. 

Now that the GWC program has finished, I am currently involved through the GWC club I started in my school. I have been surprised by the amount of girls who were hungry and eager to learn how to code, which just goes to show that the gender gap has nothing to do with interest or ability, but a lot to do with opportunity and cultural expectations. 

I have received a tremendous amount of support from Reshma Saujani, the founder of GWC, from Sean Stern, the teacher who taught me how to code during the GWC, and from Martina Sturdikova, who taught me how to code in the GWC club in my school, and also from my mom! All these people and many others have supported and encouraged me to continue coding and even pursue a career in computer science. Without these people, I probably would have quit coding a long time ago, but they have pushed me to go further and not quit.

Reshma has been an inspiration to me because she has 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 GWC 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. 

Young people, especially those in high school, who are interested in getting involved in coding should either take a computer science class if their school offers one, or apply to a computer science program. The two programs I know that are really good for anyone interested in coding are Girls Who Code, which from the name you can tell is only for girls, and NYC Generation Tech, which is for both girls and boys.  

College is right around the corner for me. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do when I finish college, but I’m passionate about coding and plan to major in computer science and pursue a related career.

About the Guest Author

Laura_Willson_Blog_1Laura Willson is a high school student from New York City. She recently won an award from the Double Discovery Center at Columbia University for her dedicated participation in DDC activities and events. Laura is part of Girls Who Code, and founded a Girls Who Code club at her school. Check out her blog at http://lauralynnwillson.blogspot.com/.


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