Kimberly Bryant: Disrupting Tech Norms Equals
She is the mom of a 13-year-old girl who can build her own website.
So she knows that girls of color do code.
Well, actually they don’t, or rather most don’t. Combined, Black, Latino and Native American women make up less than 3% of the computer programming profession. But it’s not because they lack desire.
On more than one occasion Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls CODE, has had to turn anxious tweens away from her HTML and CSS workshops because space was filled to capacity.
And needless to say, the reason for the gap doesn’t lie in capability. It’s not at all unusual for an 11 year old girl, who’s never tapped out a code, to create a website on her own after attending only one Black Girls CODE computer programing class. Kimberly sees this so often it’s become the new normal. What’s not yet normal is a social and academic understanding that technology is not a guy’s thing. Actually, research shows that the lack of diversity in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) fields can lead to flawed products.
Black Girls CODE began operating in 2011 with workshops, seminars, and after-school programs teaching digital technology and basic web structuring to girls of color from economically challenged communities in San Francisco. As one of the few Black female IT professionals in Silicon Valley, Kimberly wanted to reverse the familiar trend of scarcity along color and gender lines. Access to computers at school and home is lowest for Black and Latino youth, keeping the digital divide alive and well.
Additionally, there’s a window of opportunity before Black youth reach high school that needs to be tapped to encourage technology and circumvent the stigma of being a “geek.” Black Girls CODE mission is to reach and teach this future generation of programmers while still young (the starting age for class participants is 7), stirring a lasting enthusiasm for technology.
It’s working. Black Girls CODE, with the help of 400 volunteers, has reached over 800 girls through workshops extended to nine cities.
The goal for 2013 is to bring that reach up to 2,000 students.
Ready, set, code.
-– Clarissa Cummings