Pivotal Girls Who Code Event Inspires Women To Work In IT

August 14, 2015 Magda Kozak

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Girls Who Code aims to raise awareness and help close the gender gap in technology. The national non-profit supports a variety of programs designed to inspire, educate, and equip girls with the computing skills needed to pursue 21st century opportunities.

By 2020, there will be 1.4 million jobs available in the computing related fields, but women educated in the U.S. are only on pace to filling 3% of them. In 1984, women represented 37% of computer science graduates. Today, however, they represent a mere 18%. Only 1 out of 185 girls who express interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) actually select computer science as a major in college.

Girls Who Code aims to inspire young women to pursue their passion for computer science. Recently, the organization visited Pivotal’s office in San Francisco, where Pivotal showed just how important software is in today’s world, and some of our own women leaders provided plenty of inspiration.

The event is captured in the photos below for anyone who is looking to better understand the programs and get involved.

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Cornelia Davis, Director of Engineering in the Cloud Foundry team at Pivotal, explains how software is taking over the world. She gave the example of Blockbuster going out of business when they were actually outclassed by Netflix’s online streaming service. Cornelia was recently awarded “The Top 10 Women in Cloud,” by CloudNOW.

As with the presentation mentioned above, the program helps these young, bright, motivated women understand how software influences business and research in today’s world and why it is so important in the future. Beyond hearing from speakers, program participants are also exposed to demonstrations, workshops, and field trips to tech companies, startups, and academic institutions.

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Girls Who Code’s Summer Immersion Program puts girls through an immersive, 7-week program designed to teach any and all things related to computer science, including robotics, mobile development, and HTML/CSS. Along the way, women in the tech industry mentor them and provide insight into what it’s like to be a woman in tech.

This summer, 1,200 girls participated in 57 programs across cities like Boston, Miami, Seattle, Chicago, NYC, and San Francisco. By the end of 2015, Girls Who Code will have reached over 10,000 girls in more than 34 states through their Summer Immersion and Club programs. In a survey of the program’s alumni:

  • 90% of participants majored and/or minored in computer sciences or a closely related field
  • 77% changed paths because of the program
  • 92% percent taught someone else to code

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While here at Pivotal, Girls Who Code members were shown various agile software development processes. Here, two girls learn about pair programming from a Pivot, a master of the agile arts. Oftentimes, the girls go on to teach other girls what they have learned in visits like these, as mentioned in the statistics above.

There are also local clubs where volunteers teach computer science to 6th through 12th grade students. There are now Girls Who Code Clubs in over 34 states.

Within these local communities, participants get 40 hours of instruction, on a monthly basis, for a full school year. This includes project-based activities that are hands-on and incorporate real-world scenarios like mobile app and game development. As well, the events include networking with other participants, mentors, teachers, and professionals. At the end of the years, students get to work on a final project which impacts their community.

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At Girls Who Code, students of all ages are encouraged to learn about and pursue computer science! Students begin learning to program with Scratch, from the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. This program provides methods for creating interactive stories, games, and animations. There is a great TED Talk on it.

In addition to learning Python, HTML, and CSS, students learn JavaScript. For those that are unaware, JavaScript is one of the most widely known and used programming languages today and is used to interact with browsers for just about every website on Earth. And, it isn’t just used to interact with Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Micrososft Internet Explorer. Many mission-critical applications use JavaScript on the server, and Node.js has become a dominant framework on the server, being supported by cloud platforms from Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and others.

Along the way, students are also exposed to public speaking, writing, leadership, and teamwork—all important skills in a computer science career.

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These are the opportunities that our daughters gain from the program. Here, Cornelia tells two girls about her experiences working in technology for over 25 years. Like many other mentors, advisors, and contributors, Cornelia hopes to inspire women to stay in computer science and to become industry leaders, as she has done.

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The Girls Who Code event at Pivotal was a huge success!

In addition to Cornelia, Pivotal’s EVP of Products and R&D, Rob Mee, spoke. Rob co-founded Pivotal Labs in 1989 and served as CEO for 24 years before being acquired by EMC. As well, Hulya Emir-Farinas, Senior Principal Data Scientist at Pivotal, presented. Hulya models, builds, and leads teams who develop machine learning algorithms, optimization routines, predictive models, and more.

With this team, the girls were shown how Pivotal does software, and how women are integral to the industry.

Visit GirlsWhoCode.com for more.

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