Black Girls Code: Making Technology Accessible To All

chronicle@michronicleonline.com | 7/31/2013, 10:04 a.m.

Although the urban digital divide is steadily eroding, there are still tremendous barriers to entry into the technology field that still remain for women of color.

Early access and exposure are essential to changing the status quo. Through a combination of workshops and field trips, Black Girls Code is providing girls with new skills in computer programming, introducing them to role models in the technology space, and building their confidence to become tech creators and entrepreneurs.

By reaching out to the community through workshops and after-school programs, Black Girls Code introduces computer coding lessons to young girls from underrepresented communities in programming languages such as Scratch or Ruby on Rails. Black Girls Code has set out to prove to the world that girls of every color have the skills to become the programmers of tomorrow. By promoting classes and programs they hope to grow the number of women of color working in technology and give underprivileged girls a chance to become the masters of their technological worlds.

Recently celebrating their one-year anniversary, Black Girls Code had the honor of bringing technology and entertainment to many young girls of color. By teaching the girls programming and game design, the organization hopes to have started the lifelong process of developing in them a love for technology and the self-confidence that comes from understanding the greatest tools of the 21st century.

While Black Girls Code is pleased with the results of their work so far, this is just the first step in seeking to bridge the digital divide. According the BGC founder Kimberly Bryant, “The digital divide, or the gap between those with regular, effective access to digital technology and those without, is becoming an increasingly critical problem in society. As more and more information becomes electronic, the inability to get online can leave entire communities at an extremely dangerous disadvantage.”

A personal quest

Kimberly Bryant’s journey into coding started early.

“When I was first introduced to computer programming, as a freshman in Electrical Engineering, Fortran and Pascal were the popular languages for newbies in computing and the Apple Macintosh was the new kid on the block,” she said. “I remember being excited by the prospects, and looked forward to embarking on a rich and rewarding career after college.”

But Bryant also recalled feeling culturally isolated and noted few of her classmates looked like her.

“While we shared similar aspirations and many good times, there was much to be said for making any challenging journey with people of the same cultural background.”

Much has changed since her college days, but she says there’s still a dearth of African-American women in science, technology, engineering and math professions.

“This absence cannot be explained by a lack of interest in these fields. Lack of access and lack of exposure to STEM topics are the likelier culprits,” she said.

“By launching Black Girls Code, I hope to provide young and pre-teen girls of color opportunities to learn in-demand skills at a time when they are naturally thinking about what they want to be when they grow up.”