Reshma Saujani saw a need and did something about it. She started a movement to close the gender gap in tech and founded the non-profit organization Girls Who Code. Now she's taking her platform to a new level with the book, Girls Who Code, so girls or parents anywhere can get involved. In bright, graphic style, the book shows how much fun coding can be, and kids ages 10 and up will see what a large role computer science plays in our everyday lives and across a broad range of interests. Readers get the chance to learn about the women working in places like NASA and Pixar and will read stories of other girls who are embracing and loving the tech world. The teaching portion of the book works for those who have never coded before or who have already gotten started.
It's girl power for today's world and an exciting new trend in inspiring future generations to live their dreams. Below Saujani talks about what inspired her in this exclusive piece for the Amazon Book Review.
When I was growing up, my dad - who is an engineer - would quiz me about math every night at the dinner table. I wanted to impress him, but I always struggled coming up with answers on the spot. As a result, I became scared of math and I avoided all subjects that included it - coding, statistics, and engineering.
Many years later, when I was running for Congress, my campaign took me into schools all over New York City. Across different neighborhoods and communities, I always saw the same thing: classrooms full of boys learning to code, training to be the next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. And I couldn’t help but wonder, Where are the girls?
I became obsessed with this question and started doing some research. What I discovered shocked me. Today, while sixty-six percent of six- to twelve-year-old girls express an interest in computing, less than a quarter of computer scientists are female. This comes at a time when computing jobs are growing at 3x the rate of any other industry. With women making up more than 50% of college graduates and over 40% of our family’s breadwinners, we need to do something about bringing women into the tech workforce. If we do nothing, there will be serious implications for the U.S economy and its competitiveness.
So, why IS this happening?
First, our education system isn’t doing enough for girls or boys to prepare them for a world that wants skilled tech workers. Only one in four schools teaches computer programming and studies show that if you don’t take CS in middle or high school, you won’t take it in college.
Second, you cannot be what you cannot see. The image media like movies and TV perpetuate of a programmer is of a boy in a hoodie in a basement alone. Girls look at that and think, That’s not me and I don’t want to be that.
Last, we as a culture are teaching boys to be brave and girls to be perfect. If you feel expected to get everything right on the first try, you’ll be too afraid to take the risks and make the mistakes required to pursue math and coding, and that’s exactly how many girls and women feel, just like I did at the dinner table with my dad. (I have lots more to say about this in my Ted talk on the subject.)
The good news is that this problem is completely solvable. I started Girls Who Code five years ago with 20 girls in one NYC classroom. Today, we’ve reached over forty thousand girls in all fifty states through our Summer Immersion Program and our Clubs Program. Last year, we launched 1,000 Clubs in all 50 states, making us one of the fastest growing after-school clubs programs in America, and these groups truly represent our country: we are helping girls learn to code in a homeless shelter in Boston, on a Chippewa reservation in Minnesota, in a migrant center in California, and in the top private schools in New York City. We need our girls to know that their skills and talents, their voices and perspectives matter—that they deserve to have an equal hand in shaping what the technology of the future will be. Because, when you teach girls to code, they become change agents and can build apps, programs and movements to help tackle our country's toughest problems.
Even though we’ve reached 40,000 girls in all states, I know we can reach so many more. So, we decided to release a 13-book series with Penguin about girls and coding - the first of its kind. Our first two books, Girls Who Code: Learn to Code and Change the World and The Friendship Code are out now. With Girls Who Code, our non fiction book, I wanted to introduce girls to basic coding concepts and show them that whatever their interest—sports, the arts, baking, student government, social justice—coding can help them follow their dreams and make the world a better place. And The Friendship Code is the first in a series of four fiction books that we call “Babysitter’s Club meets coding” and introduce readers to a cast of characters they can follow across even more books to come, including a journal, an activity book, board books for toddlers, and picture books. We hope to reach and inspire every girl from babies and toddlers to tweens so that, by the time they reach that critical point when girls so often turn away from STEM, this next generation of girls will be equipped to confidently pursue it.
So now, I’m inviting you to join our movement. Share these books with the girls in your life. Show them there is a place for them at the technology table and that experimenting and making mistakes are part of learning. Together, we can close the gender gap in tech!