Girls Who Code: Encouraging more young women to get involved with tech

Published: Dec. 11, 2022 at 9:00 PM EST
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BRADFORD, Vt. (WCAX) - Getting young women around the world to pick up coding-- that’s the goal of Girls Who Code. The nonprofit organization is on a mission to close the gender gap in the tech field by the year 2030.

Middle schoolers in Bradford are taking up the challenge.

“It really walks through different elements of computer programming and robotics... There are very few females, I think it’s at like 29% right now nationally in computer science and engineering programs. So we’re really trying at a young age to be like, this is not scary, this can be fun,” said Monique Priestley, the founder of The Space on Main, Bradford, where the program is held.

While there, students get the chance to work with robotics and a variety of web design and development programs for free.

“Earlier I was working on making like making a video game and now I’m working on making my robot... I think it’s really interesting and I love making things work how I want them to,” said Phoenix Schaffer, 12, who has been participating in the program since October.

The hope is that exposure to different activities outside of school will encourage students to see themselves as future computer scientists.

“I was really interested in coding and I didn’t think I was going to be able to do it. I go to a Montessori school. So, there’s not a lot of computer use. It’s pretty look at the books before you look at the computer. Like, do all your work before you look at the computer,” said Claire Zandstra, 11, who has been attending sessions since the program began in Bradford.

People involved say they want to change the image of what a programmer looks like and does.

“I feel like a lot of people who program are men. And I want to say like programmers don’t necessarily have to be men, girls can code just as much as boys do,” said Tiana Ballenger-Moysich, another young woman involved with Girls Who Code.

They believe the best way to do that is by providing a safe and supportive environment of peers and role models.