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Real Girl Leaders: Rebecca Sadock

Today is the 4th week in our #RealGirlLeaders blog series.  This series highlights the community change projects written by high school aged girls in the Greater Boston area.  These ten young women developed projects and budgets to address the issues they see as a challenge to women and girls in their communities.  Today's #RealGirlLeaders project comes from Rebecca Sadock a 17 year old recent graduate of Cambridge Ringe and Latin School. 

 

Infiltrating the Technology Industry

  After haphazardly rebeccas2.jpgenrolling in Introduction to Computer Science last spring and loving the course, I was emboldened to apply to Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program. While I have preferred the humanities and social sciences to mathematics since elementary school, Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization striving to reduce the gender disparity in the field of computer science, broadened my understanding of mathematics' diverse applications. Numbers, I have found, concrete and devoid of subjectivity in traditional mathematics classes like calculus, facilitate exploration and creativity when embedded in code.

During my seven weeks at Girls Who Code, my budding passion for computer science flourished as I witnessed and engaged in innovation at its highest level. Touring technology companies in the Boston area as part of the program, I reveled in groundbreaking projects on facial recognition and listened intently as venture capitalists outlined their investment strategies. For Girls Who Code's final graduation project, I demonstrated my own proficiency in several programming languages, collaborating on a mobile application that I pitched to software engineers from Microsoft and Twitter. As I immersed myself in coding, Girls Who Code emphasized that the underrepresentation of female programmers in the technology industry ought to be addressed by actively recruiting them to the profession. Urging participants to resist gender discrimination as they involve themselves in the computer science community, Girls Who Code reinforced that girls can and should overcome the gender obstacles that might deter them from pursuing their interests in programming and other STEM fields.

Learning to code is a valuable experience that should be afforded to more girls at an early age. In learning how to code, girls obtain a unique skillset that will provide them with many academic and professional opportunities as they transition into adulthood. It is of the utmost importance that more girls become adept in computer science because of the staggering amount of high-paying jobs available in the technology industry. According to Girls Who Code’s main website, “The U.S. Department of Labor projects that by 2020, there will be 1.4 million computer specialist job openings.” Unfortunately, while there is an abundance of software engineering positions in the United States, “just 12% of computer science degrees are awarded to women” who “hold just 25% of the jobs in technical or computing fields.” Very few women are qualified to enter the technology industry. As a result, technology companies, even those who are eager to diversify their workforce, are compelled to hire men in order to fill their numerous job openings. Women are therefore largely excluded from an industry whose employees regularly earn six figure salaries with benefits, have flexible work hours, and are able to take significant maternity and paternity leaves- they cannot reap the benefits of a tech job. Until women infiltrate the technology industry in significant numbers, taking advantage of its outstanding opportunities, gender equity will not be achieved, preventing any significant advancement of women’s rights in the labor market.

In order to rectify the gender inequities in the field of computer science as it stands today, I have been volunteering for a Girls Who Code Club that I co-founded in association with the Harvard Women in Computer Science Club since September. Every Saturday, I teach a diverse group of middle school girls from Cambridge about computer science, emphasizing the opportunities available to women in the technology industry. Through the Girls Who Code Club, these girls have acquired valuable technology skills. They have already coded in Scratch, Javascript, HTML, and CSS. If they were to enter a high school-level computer science class today, they would be prepared for the material covered in the curriculum and they would likely do very well with respect to their older peers. More importantly, these girls have learned to love computer science and are excited to advance their understanding of the subject. They talk about their projects with vigor and passion. They are proud of what they have accomplished since the beginning of the year, but they look forward to accomplishing much more. Since they have been exposed to computer science at an early age, they are unlikely to forsake their love of the field as they develop into young adults. They will not be di

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ssuaded from pursuing computer science by the fact that the technology industry is male-dominated.

I would like to use the GLOW scholarship to expand my existing Girls Who Code Club so that it reaches out to many more girls in the Boston area. 

I am aware that Girls Who Code Clubs have already been started in many parts of Boston, but I want to make my club different. I want to provide the girls in my club with opportunities that would not be available to them at a typical Girls Who Code Club. First of all, I would want to make field trips to different technology companies a monthly occurrence. I believe that girls are inspired by visits to companies such as Google or Microsoft because they are be

Another way in which I would like to improve my Girls Who Code Club is to host a huge hackathon for all middle school and high school girls in the Boston area at the end of each year. The hackathon would last six hours from 9 AM to 3 PM on a Saturday in April or May. The girls in my club would participate in the hackathon and would share their creations with the rest of the participants at the end of the event in order to highlight what they have learned over the course of the program. Through the hackathon, the girls would see that there is an extensive computer science community that they can join as fellow programmers. The girls would hopefully understand that there is a large network of girls their own age (or slightly older) who are also interested in computer science and hope to make a career out of programming. The hackathon would enable the girls to connect with many other female programmers that might serve as friends or mentors in the future. Since this club is being run in association with Harvard Women in Computer Science, I believe that Harvard would be willing to lend us a space for the event. I also believe that computers could be provided for the girls who do not have them. We would definitely need money to provide refreshments for the event. I would use the rest of the money to give the girls certificates indicating that they have participated in the hackathon.tter able to envision themselves as employees at those companies. When they observe employee solving a challenging coding problem or a pioneering technological innovation, they imagine themselves in that employee’s place. It is important for girls to realize that working at a leading technology company is a reality for them if they pursue computer science. Many technology companies are willing to provide tours to school groups for free, but it would cost $420 to take 40 girls to and from five technology companies on the MBTA at a student rate. The cost of transportation would be worth it, though, considering how valuable it would be for the girls to understand that there are futures for them in the technology industry.

Coding is a rewarding and enjoyable skill that every girl should learn from a young age. In an age of technology, it is imperative that girls learn how to code if they want to compete with their male counterparts for the best jobs in the market. With funding from the GLOW Scholarship, my Girls Who Code Club would introduce many more girls to computer science and would promote their interest in the field to an extent that is not possible for me to achieve right now.

 To learn more about the IGNITE Change Contest or how to support the Girls Leadership program or an individual IGNITE Change project, please contact leah@bostonglow.org

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