09.13.139:00 PM ET

Girls Who Code: Why I Code

For eight weeks this summer, a group of high-school girls brought together by the innovative program Girls Who Code gathered at the headquarters of IAC, the parent company of Newsweek/The Daily Beast, to learn computer programming and bridge the gender gap in the STEM fields. Here, they share their stories about how they gained the confidence to conquer the tech industry.

Laura Willson

“I have learned a tremendous amount in the eight short weeks that I have been a participant. I have learned how to code in JavaScript, Python, C, CSS, JQuery, and HTML. My high school, an all-girls Catholic school, does not offer any Computer Science classes; as a result, GWC has introduced me to a new world I would have never learned about otherwise. In addition, I have been able to connect and realize the similarities I have with these other young women who are hungry, and eager to learn, and who also hope to close the gender gap in CS…

I think it is important to address the gender gap in CS because it is a real problem that begins at a young age, and is crucial to fix. A few things that I believe will help with the gender imbalance in CS would be to expose more young women in CS. Implementing courses in Computer Science to girls from ninth to twelfth grades will make it easier for young women to be exposed to CS. Instead of relying upon a program limited to the summer months, it should be throughout the school year, and either after school or on weekends. I am excited to take all that I have learned at GWC and take the first step to exposing other girls in my high school to CS, and start a Robotics/CS Club. Hopefully, this will be the first step to having a CS class in my high school later on down the line. Until then, I hope to spread the word of GWC, one girl at a time.”


Arwa Farrag

“Coding is behind the technology that we use everyday but we’ve never stopped to think how it all works. Not only are our teachers devoted to instructing us on how to code, but they are inspiring us to enter the field and be a part of the ever changing world. As a teenager living in NYC, I constantly think about people who are less fortunate than me and I want to help. I thought that once I finished college, I would join a startup and change the world. But now after learning computer science and the impact I can have on the world, I have come to the realization that I have this ability. Not only have I come to the realization that I can do this but that anyone can do this. After cooperating and learning with my friends who have become sisters through Girls Who Code, I’ve taken a look back and am in disbelief in how far we have come in eight weeks. We have learned a countless array of useful skills along the way and have grasped more knowledge that will stay with us forever. If this course could be offered in schools as a course, students all over the city can learn to code and be a part of the movement.

But it seems that although technology continues to advance, the gender inequality remains a problem. Women continue to be misrepresented in the statistics of the fields that define the work force. But what many people do not realize is that women bring a different view on world problems and incorporate a different mind frame that they can transform into creative technology. Not only do women need to be included in this technological movement but people of different ethnicities. Bringing creative people together will provide us with the opportunity to be more efficient and make technology continue to advance internationally. I think that the gender inequality is inequitable to women in all fields but especially computer science. All other fields are limited and although people in these fields can make a change, it is only limited within the field they have entered. On the other hand, computer science is a field with no boundaries. Whatever you dream, think, aspire can be implemented through the use of technology. Many people like me have dreamed to do something that will impact the world. Through computer science, I have learned that it can be the platform that I can continue to build on as my idea develops over the years.

I believe that through education, we will be able to alter the gender imbalance. Knowledge is power and if you have power you can promote change. By understanding the fundamentals behind how everything works we will be able to modify the world we live in and make it more efficient. But the problem with a movement is that it is difficult to involve the whole human race. Although technology is programmed to be fast, the way it is implemented in the world is a slower and much more difficult process. We must expose computer science as an aspect involved and necessary in all fields. Once everyone understands that, educational programs will be developed and children all over the world will learn how to code. Only through education will computer science be a field that everyone dreams to be a part of. Some of the world’s biggest problems have been solved through computer science and if people become knowledgeable with what they can do with a background in computer science, they will be influenced and moved to do their part as well. A world of coders is a world of innovation.


Joelle Robinson

Since I was young, I have always thought analytically and observed every aspect of my environment with great detail. I was also always mesmerized by math and science. Due to this fact, society continuously whispered that I should become a doctor or a lawyer in my ear. I, on the other hand, wanted to take my skills and implement them to enable me to create new works with the touch of my fingertips. It was only through Girls Who Code that I was able to learn that a computer scientist does precisely that and more.

Computer science is simply another outlet for creativity. It allows anyone to become artists on the web. A work of art can be made in the vision of the creator and displayed instantaneously worldwide. This seamlessly fit into my life; coding has the structure of computation paired with creativity which inevitably spawned the symphonic result that is the Internet. With computer science, the possibilities are infinite. The world is moving into the age of technology because computer scientists are constantly going further outside the box, thinking of tomorrow. Due to this constant progression, labor is becoming easier, simpler, and more precise. Problems have been erased because of solutions provided by coders. Computer scientists are the innovators of society as they move civilization forward with their insight into technology.

Programming, no matter how technical, is creative and aids in providing solutions to real-world issues. It was not until I coded my first program that I was able to fully understand this. Being a computer scientist means that you the drive to work hard and the passion to create something new that can be beneficial to the world. It’s evident to me now, we need computer scientists and anyone can be one.


Emelyn Ruiz

The notion of bridging the gender gap in the computer science field is a work in progress, but I feel I have positively contributed to this problem’s solution this summer. Girls Who Code is an essential program in the lives of young women like me because it exposes us to many professionals and work environments that shape our vision for the bright futures we have ahead of us. Several women are discouraged from becoming computer technologists because they realize that it is a male dominated area of interest, but they should also keep in mind that they are not a statistic. Women will offer this field a wide range of different perspectives in regards to solving large and small problems in the technological world.

Although more women should pursue specialties in computer science, they should not be a discouraging force towards men because discrimination will not allow necessary progress to take place. The gender gap forces people to have a major reality check in terms of being actively involved with recruiting women into computer science engineering dealing with hardware or software. Some individuals are passive in encouraging and positively influencing women to potentially pursue a career in this field that correlates with almost all other careers.

Although I have always dreamed about becoming a doctor, Girls Who Code has taught me that I do not have to limit myself to only one area of specialty. On a more basic level, I have learned that computer science dwells in our daily environments. Therefore, I could literally use it to analyze any type of information because people can find and intricately use algorithms to ensure the correct functioning of all objects in different surroundings. Women must realize that the technological revolution is far from over and their contributions will slowly but effectively change the world. Educators must make an explicit distinction between technology and computer science because students do not particularly view technology as a core course they need in life.

Personally, Girls Who Code opened my mind not only to associate the word technology with typing faster or discovering programs for school use but also learning how to be a unique inventor of my generation. I now have the mindset to use any of the programming languages I have learned this summer to produce a code that could solve a dilemma as simple as boredom but as complicated as discovering cures for diseases.


Corrina Blau

In coming to Girls Who Code this summer, I have learned more about computer science in the past eight weeks than I have in my entire life. Girls Who Code is a complete immersion in the tech world, and it has taught me that computer science concepts can be related to every discipline and many different jobs.

The benefits of a program such as Girls Who Code are immense, considering 74 percent of high school girls show interest in STEM fields, but only 0.3 percent of high school girls choose to major in computer science. Women and men alike suffer as a result of this gender disparity, along with the industry itself. With greater diversity comes more perspectives, and in reality, excluding 50 percent of the population is also slashing in half the chance to propel technology further, to welcome the next software engineer with the “Next Big Idea.” The same applies to any field traditionally held by one gender. The fact that nurses, elementary school teachers, and child care workers are mostly women is an unfortunate loss for everyone.

I do not believe that the computer science field has made a conscious decision to exclude women; in fact, most software engineers I have met this summer seemed excited by the work Girls Who Code is doing. Not only is there a shortage of female developers, but software engineers in general are in high demand. Unfortunately, gender inequality is not a biological problem, or due to a lack of interest on the part of women. What we have is a cultural problem. Too often growing up, boys are given positive reinforcement based on the things they do and the projects they make, whereas girls are complimented on the way they look. It is often done unconsciously, but it slows up the progression of equality in fields that were once held completely by men. In a situation such as this, where girls are not encouraged to go into STEM fields, and in fact, do not even know that computer science is an option, gender disparity grows. I myself had no idea what coding was eight weeks ago, and now I cannot look at my computer without imagining a network of connections, can’t cross the street without picturing the pixels of the stoplight, and I now know that I can go into computer science if I choose to. I don’t yet know what I want to do when I get older, but Girls Who Code has shown me that I don’t have to be afraid of STEM fields, and that with enough time anyone can learn this. The sooner we can erase the social stigma that accompanies certain people in certain jobs, the more productive we will be, and the better off the world will be.


Nikki Allen

As a girl who codes, I believe that women in technology have a sense of importance because they are so rare. A very small percentage of women actually pursue a career in computer science. Being that computer science is very important to the world as a whole, I feel as if women play a big part, considering we are half of the world’s population. To have women not involved in computer science careers, it seems as if we are being left out of something with great significance to the advancement of the world.

In my school, Collegiate Institute for Math and Science, there are some females who want to pursue a career in engineering or technology. However, because of the stereotyping and what they have been told about tech or engineering as a career, it's led them to believe that they shouldn’t or can’t seek a job in the field. Personally, before this program, I felt the same way. My brother studied some computer science and pushes me to continue on this path if I truly like it. Before, I would have said no. I always had the idea that computer science was for males, and I could never be successful if I tried to study it. I now know that this is completely wrong. Being in this program for eight weeks has opened a tremendous amount of doors for me. I have met men AND women alike in the field who are very happy and satisfied with their career choice. I now know how to code in a few languages, and I never knew I could learn so much, so fast.


Marsha Ghose

I am personally interested in computer science because I love the creative potential it brings to me. I view the whole world in a whole new ways, as in I think of everything as a set of steps, or an algorithm. The grass grows only if it obtains sunlight and water. If a traffic light displays red, then cars must stop. I feel that by knowing computer science, I am invincible. I can do anything, and make anything I please.

In addition to being creative, I became interested in computer science, Girls Who Code in particular, so that I could help the programming department on my high schools All girls robotics team, the FeMaidens. As captain of the team, I wanted to be able to help as many team members as I possibly could. By gaining the knowledge that I have in this program, I look forward to spreading it to the members of the team this year, as well as to any girl who has an interest in computer science.

My thoughts on women in technology is that those who have jobs/work which doesn’t involve technology are missing out on the huge technological revolution the world is going through today. As captain of an all-girls robotics team, I feel that it is my duty to introduce young women to new sources of technology and show them how anyone can contribute to the revolution we are living through. I want more women to look at technology as an option for them. I want them to just take that risk of picking up a book on arduinos, or looking into engineering as a potential major. I want them to have all the experiences that I am going through. I want them to live their life in this world to its fullest. Without the knowledge of computer science, you are cutting yourself short of a whole new world. As for the women in the fields of technology today, they are my idols and inspiration. I look up at them as brave warriors who did what they truly wanted to do and did not restrict themselves due to an imbalanced gender gap. What I also find respectable about these women is that they are social and aren't afraid to let people know that they are as smart as they are.


Tachira Pichardo

This summer, I willingly volunteered to give up eight weeks of my time for a nine to five program that met every day. Now, I know what you’re thinking: How in the world does one get a 16-year-old girl to give up her summer without bribing or forcing her? I’ll tell you how: by giving her an opportunity to do something that can change her life and potentially change a multi-billion dollar industry…

This program has not only taught me valuable skills about coding and programming, but also taught me more about myself than I ever would have imagined. I’ve learned so much not only from my teachers and the many speakers and field trips we've had (chief among them being News Corp, The New York Times, Twitter, Google, J.P. Morgan Chase, and Qualcomm), but also from my fellow girls who code. I feel like I’ve finally found my niche here, among girls who have not only ambition for higher education and beyond but also the incredible talent and drive to get there. They’ve taught me that it’s okay to want more than just to be cool, and that I always have something of value to offer.

With Girls Who Code, I’ve also been able to discover a whole industry that previously had meant little to nothing to me, despite having such a large influence on my life. Computer science is so prevalent in today’s society that some of us use it without even realizing (I’m looking at you, Tumblr users). Where there’s technology, there’s computer science, and seeing as technology is so ubiquitous in everyday life, its astounding how little of us truly understand it. I know Girls Who Code has some critics, as do programs like it, who say that organizations like this are not necessary and that women are underrepresented in fields like computer science due to lack of interest or other factors on our behalf. I’m here to say that that is not true in any way, and this program has (and I’m not exaggerating when I say this) completely changed my life. How else would I have been able to hear Rupert Murdoch speak at News Corp or meet department heads at places like Google and J.P. Morgan Chase (places that even many adults are hard-pressed to get into)? And, I might mention, for free. There was absolutely no cost on my part or my family’s, except for my time…

I’m so grateful for this opportunity and I hope my blog post has given other teenage girls the courage to do something they never would have thought possible for them.


Yessica Palapa

I came into this program, Girls Who Code, clueless about computer science. In fact, I didn’t even know what computer science or coding was. All I knew was that it had to do with technology and that Girls Who Code is trying to close the gender gap in technology. I’m the kind of girl that likes to try out new things. I knew this program was going to be intense, but I like challenges and I wanted to learn new things that could help me later in life. Little did I know I was going to one of the biggest, most important companies in the world and learning about the opportunities that are available for women in technology.

There are so many things I worked on in this program. Before this program began, I was so excited to create my own website and app. I just found it so cool that I was going to learn how to create something that seemed like magic. We used programming languages like Scratch, HTML, CSS, Python and more. At first, coding was difficult for me. Since I didn’t know anything about coding, it was hard for me to understand what was happening. Thanks to my teacher Sean and my TA, Elizabeth, I was able to learn a lot and they helped me whenever I was stuck with something. Whenever I worked in groups, the girls were just so helpful and really nice. I’m so glad I met these girls this summer. Not only were they my friends, but my sisters. Finally, I created my own website! When I saw my own website in the computer, I was just so proud of myself. I had a big smile on my face the rest of the day.

Everyone had to deal with frustration this summer. Some projects were tough for example, Finding The Blob. I have to say this was the hardest project. It was hard to make the robot find the blue ball, take pictures, and count the pixels, so much in our heads. The girls in my group and I were so frustrated I thought we were never going to finish it. We eventually learned that frustration was our best friend. This is what my teacher Sean taught us. As I worked on projects I knew that if I got frustrated, it was normal. I feel like I’ve grown more this summer. I feel confident for my junior year that is coming up, which I was terrified for during my sophomore year. I know that my junior year will full of stress and frustration but with the skills I learned in Girls Who Code, I feel like I can overcome anything.

Before I started this program, I was a very shy person. Well, actually I’ve always been a shy person. I met the girls and talked to them, but it was the professional people I met that I was kind of scared to talk to. I just felt like if I asked him/her a question it would sound dumb to them. Sean noticed this and encouraged me to ask questions to every speaker who came. Every day I had this in mind and forced myself to ask the speakers questions. I’m so glad he did because I forced myself to talk. Now I’m not scared of asking questions or even asking for help because this is what every speaker did when they were my age. I’m just so happy and I feel very lucky of being part of Girls Who Code because it helped me become a different person.

What I loved the most about this program was meeting professional people who came to speak to us and the field trips. The speakers were so inspiring and motivated me to dream big. I learned that they started from the bottom and because they always dreamed big and never gave up, now they are working in very important companies. These speakers worked so hard to achieve their goals and this is what inspired me. I feel so motivated to follow my dreams even if they seemed big I know I won’t give up. When I was younger and before the program began, I was scared of the future. I was scared I wasn’t going to succeed and be happy. Because of Girls Who Code, I have goals I'm ready to achieve. I’m happy to say that I want to major in computer science in college.