Magazine article Newsweek

Taking on Tech's Diversity Problem in Grade School; Black Girls Code Is Trying to Get Girls Interested in Computer Programming, and Keep Them There

Magazine article Newsweek

Taking on Tech's Diversity Problem in Grade School; Black Girls Code Is Trying to Get Girls Interested in Computer Programming, and Keep Them There

Article excerpt

Byline: Grant Burningham

"Today I made a self-driving car," NyEla, 10, says to a room of cheering parents and beaming girls ranging from elementary to high school. "It was pretty easy." Just hours ago, NyEla had never programmed, and now she was showing off her creation, a game where a car, of its own accord, navigates a roughly rendered track. NyEla dove into computer programming today with the help of an organization called Black Girls Code (BGC).

When BGC's West Coast Events Coordinator Amber Morse shouts to the crowd of parents and kids: "What do we do?" the girls shout back: "We change the face of technology!"

Black Americans make up just 7 percent of the country's technology engineers. Just 3 percent are black women. These race and gender gaps can't be explained by lack of access; the days when you had to be wealthy to use a computer as a kid have vanished. According to Barbara J. Ericson, a research scientist at Georgia Institute of Technology, the biggest problem now is not getting the opportunity to take computer science classes before college. Of all those who took the Advanced Placement test in computer science in 2015, 78 percent were male and only 4 percent were black. "The students with prior experience in those fields are the ones who are going to succeed in college," Ericson says.

The mission of BGC, which started in 2011, is to close the gap by getting girls tinkering with and thinking about programming while they're young, making them feel like they can compete in computer science classes in college and beyond. …

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