STEM JOBS

EARLY FALL 2017

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18 EARLY FALL 2017 // STEMJOBS.COM At the end of 2013, the White House predicted there would be 1.4 million computer-science-related jobs available by the year 2020, but that the U.S. would only produce about 400,000 computer science graduates to fill those jobs. That means we'll only have enough qualified people to fill less than 30% of those jobs! Worse yet, only one out of every four of those jobs will be filled by women. This disturbing trend led Reshma Saujani to start a nonprofit organization geared toward teaching girls in middle and high school how to code through afterschool programs and summer camps. STEM Jobs talked with Reshma about Girls Who Code, what inspires her, and what the future of tech holds for those brave enough to take the leap. STEM JOBS: What inspired you to start Girls Who Code? RESHMA SAUJANI: I'm an unlikely person to be leading this chargeā€”I am not a coder. In 2010, I decided to run for United States Congress in a democratic primary against an 18-year incumbent because I thought that was a great idea. I had a 1% chance of winning, a 1,000- page policy book, and the only thing my friends and I knew how to do was build a website. During the first week we raised $50,000 from Indian aunties that were just so happy an Indian girl was running. On Election Day, I swore I was going to win and as we watched the election returns come in I got only 19% of the vote. I was broke, humiliated, and I had no contingency plan. But as I went to bed that night the faces I kept seeing over and over again were actually the ones I had never seen on the campaign trails. During the campaign, I would visit schools and see armies of boys learning to code, training to be next Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. And I thought to myself, "Where are all the girls?" This question became my obsession. It didn't seem right to me. At a time when women are a majority of college graduates and close to a majority in the labor force, where are we in tech, the industry shaping our collective future? SJ: What is the mission of Girls Who Code? RS: We're a national nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology. It's a solvable problem, one that I think we can achieve within our lifetime. SJ: What do you see as the barriers between girls and careers in computer science? RS: I think culture is a huge barrier. But it hasn't always been this way. In the 1980s, 37% of computer science graduates were women. Steve Jobs' original MacIntosh team had more women than most tech companies today. So what changed? In the 1980s, personal computers came out and were marketed as a game for boys. That narrative got picked up in movies like Revenge of the Nerds and continues today in TV shows like Silicon Valley. The image of a programmer these days is of a boy in a hoodie in a basement alone and girls look at that and say "no, thanks." So we need to change pop culture and the image of what a programmer looks like and does. Which is why we're releasing a first-of-its-kind 13-book series with Penguin as an invitation for girls everywhere to learn to code and change the world. One of the best ways to spark girls' interest is to share stories of girls who look like them. You can't be what you can't see, so we created five relatable characters to feature in every book. Lucy, Maya, Sophie, Erin, and Leila represent the diversity and range COVER STORY // CODING RESHMA SAUJANI By Ellen Egley One Line of Code at a Time

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